MP backs neighbours in fight to stop new car park
PUBLISHED: 10:00 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:00 06 May 2020
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Neighbours opposed to the extension of a car park at Norfolk County Council’s headquarters have said the coronavirus pandemic has proved it is not necessary - because staff are able to work from home.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has backed the critics of the proposals for the car park extension at County Hall in Martineau Lane.
But council bosses have insisted that, even though the bulk of its staff are home working at the moment, the extra parking spaces will be needed at County Hall in the longer term.
The council has lodged plans to build a new car park on the perimeter of the Annex building, while adding a deck to its existing car park.
But families who live nearby are objecting. Joan Christodoulides, on behalf of the Conesford Drive and Churston Close Environment Group, said: “It is not lost on residents – as they regularly read in the media - that working life will be different after this crisis.
“One of the consequences will be greater flexible working and a reduced need for parking, meaning that this application feels extremely inappropriate.”
Martin Armstrong, who lives in Conesford Drive, said: “Since the introduction of the lock down, it is apparent from the near empty car park that the essential business of local government has continued by dint of staff working from home and this calls into serious doubt the justification for expansion of the County Hall car park.”
Neighbours had said the council refused to extend the consultation process, despite the pandemic.
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While the council has confirmed it will now extend that until June 12 - it insists the car park extension will be needed.
A county council spokeswoman said: “Prior to lockdown we were in the process of consolidating our buildings and functions to make better economic and environmental use of our assets.
“This included the transfer of staff from Carrow House to County Hall and the potential to consider transferring staff from other satellite buildings.
“By bringing further services into County Hall, it will maximise capacity at County Hall and allow capital receipts from satellite building sales and further cost savings on the maintenance of those buildings.”
“As the headquarters of the county council, the available office space at County Hall will always be maximised, so the need for additional car parking, taking the site up to its planning limit will still be required.”
But Labour MP Mr Lewis said: “Pandemic or no pandemic, larger employers still have the same moral responsibility to do everything they can to counter climate breakdown.
“Car usage is responsible for around a quarter of all carbon emissions across the EU and making it easier to park will induce increased commuting by private vehicle and hasten climate breakdown.
“The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the UEA says of all the counties in mainland UK, Norfolk is the most at-risk from the effects of the climate emergency.
“Why on earth is the local authority responsible for our county putting its own citizens in even more climate jeopardy by enabling increased carbon emissions?”
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