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‘Let them eat car park’ - anger at decision over £1.9m parking spaces

PUBLISHED: 14:08 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:22 21 August 2020

How the new car park at Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters could look. Pic: Icarus Consulting Ltd.

How the new car park at Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters could look. Pic: Icarus Consulting Ltd.

Icarus Consulting Ltd

A controversial £1.9m car park extension at Norfolk County Council’s headquarters has been backed by councillors, but a government intervention means it could yet be rejected.

Danny Douglas, Labour county councillor for Mancroft. Picture: ANTONY KELLYDanny Douglas, Labour county councillor for Mancroft. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The council’s planning committee voted eight to four in favour of the scheme to create an extra 128 spaces at the Martineau Lane site, through an extension to the car park and by adding a second deck to part of the current set-up.

However, the secretary of state had served a holding direction on the council on Thursday afternoon, triggered by a request for the government to get involved, which meant the committee could not award permission.

Instead they voted to signal they would want to award permission. But enacting that had to be delegated to the council’s head of planning to enact, once the government has decided whether to call in the decision or to withdraw the holding direction.

If it is called it by the government, it would trigger a planning inquiry and the final decision would rest with communities secretary Robert Jenrick.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

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There were more than 50 representations about the plans, with neighbours saying coronavirus had shown many staff could work effectively from home, so extra parking was not needed. Congestion, pollution and the impact of the added deck on nearby homes were also concerns.

Labour’s Norwich South MP Clive Lewis addressed the virtual meeting. He said: “Building a £2m car park sends completely the wrong message that the council is serious about decarbonising, about making the switch from cars to more sustainable transport.

“I think it makes a mockery of having a park and ride system, talking about having a sustainable transport network here in Norwich and then building a very 20th century and unseemly car park.”

Brian Long, Conservative county councillor for Fincham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Brian Long, Conservative county councillor for Fincham. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Brenda Jones, Labour county councillor for Lakenham, said: “It’s madness of the council to commit to nearly £2m of expenditure to spend money we don’t have on a car park we don’t need to solve a problem that might not exist.”

But Conservative councillor Bev Spratt, who represents West Depwade, said people in rural areas needed to be able to drive into Norwich.

Conservative colleague Brian Long, who represents Fincham, said the council needed to move staff into County Hall from buildings it was closing elsewhere in Norwich and Norfolk, so extra spaces were necessary.

Danny Douglas, Labour councillor for Mancroft, whose proposal to defer a decision was lost by eight votes to four, said approval would make the council look foolish.
He said: “We would be saying we are a Marie Antoinette authority, shouting to our people ‘Let them eat car park’.”


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