PLANNING approval has been granted for Huntingdon’s multi-storey car park despite the constructive objections made by the town council and local residents.
Those who live in Huntingdon and will suffer the full impact of this decision were not allowed to have most of their proposals considered.
One made a very good presentation as to the effect the car park would have on his life and property. So could have most of the objectors. But when only three minutes are allocated for all objectors' views to be presented, this was not possible.
Most councillors seemed to want to implement some of the improvements but were prevented by the rules. The chairman kept reminding them that moving the car park back from Nursery Road was not an option – “You either approve or reject the whole scheme.”
They did manage some minor success by imposing planning conditions principally to restrict use from 24/7 in line with shop opening times, like Peterborough. After that, their wings were clipped and it was just approve-or-reject mode.
The basic problem seems to stem from the 2009 town development scheme in which councillors and planners identified the north-east corner as most appropriate for the building. However, the councillors seemed not to expect that the planning officers would take this literally and put it so close to the road and well in front of the building line of the fire station, ATS and Sainsbury's.
The impact is the present open feel of Nursery Road will be lost by overshadowing from this 50-foot high large building, removing most of the sunlight and greenery from this conservation area.
Councillor Mike Shellens tried to raise finance issues, saying central government's advice to councils to reduce car parking charges to help town centre shopping meant the funding loan may not be covered by charges and will fall upon all Council Tax payers. But the chairman ruled that this was nothing to do with planning.
The main suggestions are that the car park needs, as a minimum, to be moved back to reduce the impact on Nursery Road, help preserve whilst improving this conservation area and reduce the overshadowing and noise echo.
Building costs would be less, as the culvert containing Barracks Brook would not have to be diverted. Ideally, HDC should adopt the town council's recommendation that the car park should be located at the back of the site, closer to the High Street and the long awaited redevelopment of the Inland Revenue site into shops etc.