Battle for Holt’s ‘desperately’ needed car park goes to county hall
The battle for Holt's badly-needed car park has been stepped up as campaigners take their fight for the long-awaited facility to county hall.
Businesses are becoming extremely concerned about the town's lack of spaces, which has been blamed for putting people off visiting and there have been warnings the parking problems could soon spark an 'appalling' situation.
A showdown meeting has been set for December 14 where supporters hope to put an end to a wrangle with council bosses over access to a thin strip of land, which has been holding up plans to build the 385-space car park on land off Thornage Road.
Despite proposals being passed in 2009 the project has still not got under way as the developer and county council are locked in negotiations over the cost of accessing the 10 metre ribbon of former railway track, which would provide the pedestrian walkway for motorists into the town.
Norfolk County Council (NCC), which owns the land, has said it has 'a duty to council tax payers to secure the commercial value' of the access but campaigners now want it designated as a public right of way, which would wipe any costs and finally allow building work to start.
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Developer Graham Chapman has collected evidence to try and prove the track is already a right of way, as it has been used by residents for dozens of years, and will be presenting his findings to the crunch meeting.
Speaking publicly about the project's delays he told a town council meeting how he had tried to reach an agreement with the authority.
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'First of all the council wanted a short term lease and I was concerned about that because in a few years time they could have put it up to a very, very high price. What I wanted to do was a one off payment and to finish with it.'
He said he offered the council �25,000 but the authority came back asking for �46,000. He then offered �50,000 to be paid with 10 annual payments of �5,000, but this was also rejected when NCC did a 'complete u-turn' and instead asked for a 'laughable' 20 to 30pc share of his gross profits
County councillor John Perry-Warnes is backing this move and said he was 'hopeful' the right of way would be granted, meaning 'there would be nothing to pay and the car park could be started almost straight away.'
Council clerk Di Dann said vehicles were struggling to get into the cemetery because of parked cars clogging the roads, and recently the council's service truck was forced to abandon its attempts to get into the graveyard.
She said: 'This could have been a hearse, which would have had to have parked about 200 metres away and the coffin carried. We don't want to have an issue like this but we're running close to it.'
Lindsay Furniss, owner of The Tannery, echoed these comments and said the town 'desperately' needs the car park.
'We can't afford from any point of view any further delay. I feel it's essential all of us do whatever we can to push this through,' she added.
But the right of access bid could deal a blow to campaigners keen to reinstate the railway. The Norfolk Orbital Railway group wants to bring the line back into the centre of Holt and was anticipating a slice of Mr Chapman's access fee to go towards the scheme.
David Lee, a director with the group, said: 'It's a setback because we were expecting a contribution to build a (foot) bridge across the railway. That now seems, at the moment, to have gone by the wayside.'