Saturday, 8 October 2016

Anecdotal Evidence - Ashton Site Set To Go Ahead Despite Inadequate Parking

Ashton site : Proposed Parking Below CBC Regulated Standards 
In my teens we lived in a maisonette above a parade of shops in a town centre location. Dad used to park the shop's van outside much of the time, although overnight it would be parked in a private garage close by. Then Dad got his own car and permission was obtained from the private landlords to park vehicles at the rear of the maisonettes. Mum bought a Wartburg estate car so she could get all her camping stuff in,;she was Akela in a local cub pack. My brother bought a car, a Ford Zephyr as I recall, something to do with wanting a big American looking car. I bought a Ford Capri. I think we were influenced by American tv shows like Happy Days and the A team.

There was no thought given to why we needed the cars other than cruising around, or to pick up the chick, just like they did in Happy Days. Anyway, I digress. We parked the cars and van at the rear for a time, then one day the land was sold off for development. Mum sold her car off.  And we had to find somewhere else to park.

20 years before I lived here, parking outside the shops wasn't a problem.

Not to worry, there was still spaces to park in on the street in front of the shop. But that didn't last for long, as the dreaded yellow lines were extended, doubled, and parking became quite difficult. Sentries were posted to watch for the traffic wardens, and we'd quickly scramble for the keys to move the vehicles before a ticket was posted on the windscreens.

 The van and three cars were often parked up in public car parking spaces a couple of minutes walk away, beside the Town Hall. Before we knew it, the Council were bringing in parking for Council employees only during the  day time. So, we had to vacate those spaces or face daily fines. I began parking mine in a free underground car park under the town hall. That was, until the Council slapped a barrier on the car park so that it permitted their day time employees only.

From hereon we were restricted to driving around local residential streets hoping for a space to squeeze into.

The bottom line is that circumstances change,  and if you don't plan ahead, then you create a problem for the future. As Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said 'if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!'

And so, next week, Central Bedfordshire Council Development Management Committee meet to decide the future of the former Ashton Grammar School site in Dunstable's High Street North.  It is recommended for approval despite many concerns, not least parking.

The design and access statement (http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/showimage.asp?j=CB/16/03188&index=671071 ) page 15 has many references to parking objections; these are nonchalantly dismissed by the developers with the statement, "Additional parking spaces are provided for the scheme. Any shortfall is believed to be justified  given the site's location and likely resident profile."

Well, I'm sorry but there is no way to predict likely resident profile. Anyone could end up living there. White van man whose van won't fit in the garage, lady of the house who can't use the garage because it's full of family paraphernalia, teenage daughter who parks awkwardly so that she takes up a neighbour's spot, too, and teenage son who can't find anywhere to park, so churns up the grass verge.

So, what are these additional spaces? I'm reading through the summary statement to Development Management councillors and I come across the remarks of the Principal Highways Engineer.  "I have made initial comments in relation to the planning performance submission and there have been various amendments of which I have given guidance." Call me cynical, but does that mean he's had his arm twisted?

He  writes that 177 spaces have been provided, whereas 241 are required under the authority's guidelines. That 177 includes garages (which I say will be full of family equipment, and rarely used by a vehicle) and visitor parking. At this point the words of Benjamin Franklin should start to be echoing around the minds of councillors deciding the future of Dunstable.

He then goes on to show how the number of off-site parking spaces adjacent to the site can be increased very slightly, by just 7. Bizarrely, he also mentions Union Street and Clifton Road which could increase the parking provision by between 3 and 6 spaces. He does his duty by pointing out the on-site parking deficiency, then justifies the short allocation of spaces by tweaking what could be done outside the development site. This is ridiculous, future requirements will override the reason these spaces are to be created.

Any sane person would recommend a reduction of the amount of properties on the site, and increase the number of parking spaces until the authority's standard is met.

BUT, this 241 spaces ruling can be overridden if there are 'exceptional circumstances' such as town centre locations with public car parks, bus services and immediate employment opportunity which could mean that some of the home owners will not need to have a car.  Central Bedfordshire Council have pretty wishy-washy ideas about how much the desired number of parking spaces can be reduced by. In April 2015 they permitted, under delegated powers, a scheme in High Street South to go through with just 6 parking spaces for 26 flats and none for retailers (http://dunstablenewsdesk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/woolworths-old-shop-redevelopment-could.html).

A reduction of the number of properties would also help out the concerns of the tree officer who states, " 20 healthy trees are being felled to accommodate this development... Regrettably, the limited planting space being allowed in the new scheme has resulted in the use of smaller replacement species that would offer insufficient size, scale and proportion within the building layout... the site is being overdeveloped at the expense of sufficient areas being set aside for landscape planting. "
And the Green Infrastructure Officer, "The failure to design in multifunctional SuDS, and the lack of clear information about management and maintenance means that the proposals are not acceptable in terms of local and national policy."

If councillors don't call this correctly, they'll just be storing up problems for future councillors to be harangued about. Do us all a favour, chuck this proposal out, and start thinking more about keeping this site for educational use. There is a private educational use buyer waiting in the wings.

The meeting is due to be broadcast on Wednesday 12 Oct 2016 from 10.00 a.m
http://centralbedfordshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

>>My previous article: Houghton Regis - The Pressure's Cooking For Town Centre Parking

Meeting: http://centralbeds.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=631&MId=5193&Ver=4

Public Reports Pack: http://centralbeds.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g5218/Public%20reports%20pack%20Wednesday%2012-Oct-2016%2010.00%20DEVELOPMENT%20MANAGEMENT%20COMMITTEE.pdf?T=10

Plans: http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/portal/searchresult.asp?appnumber=CB/16/03188

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