Thursday, 1 October 2015

New homes and a new car park set for Park Street

PROPOSALS for a new 250 space underground car park, with housing and cycle parking, are set to be discussed by councillors.

Cambridge City Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee will discuss a report that has been published today, recommending the demolition of the existing multi-storey car park to make way for homes and parking.

The report proposes a mixed housing development of market and social housing, including options for commercial rent on the ground floor, to sit above the new car park. It also puts forward proposals to mitigate disruption during the building works.

The condition of Park Street car park has deteriorated because it is close to the end of its useful life and costly repairs would offer taxpayers poor value for money over the longer term.

Last year, the council carried out a consultation on a number of options for Park Street car park.

A majority of respondents said they preferred the option to replace the existing car park with a new underground car park with mixed residential and/ or other commercial development above ground.

Further work on the costs of this and other options followed the consultation and the report sets out the pros and cons of the options considered.

If councillors give it the green light, the new car park would offer customers modern facilities, new cycle parking and meet all the latest standards.

It would last for around 60 years, cost approximately £9.25m and take around 20 months to build with around two months needed to demolish the current car park.

This means that there will be fewer parking spaces in the city centre for the duration of the project which will bring some inconvenience for regular customers and also lose the council revenue in the short term.

To mitigate the impact on the public during the building works, the report proposes initiatives to promote alternative car and cycle parking in the city centre, in addition to bus services and the park and ride.

The council’s analysis of car parking capacity across the city centre shows there are sufficient spaces available in other car parks at most times of the week to make up for the temporary loss at Park Street.

A joint campaign with Cambridge BID is also suggested to support the message that Park Street businesses and others in the vicinity are open for business as usual.

The business case for the scheme also sets out how the council will recover the lost income over time.

The report recommends further work to analyse the best way of delivering the housing element of the overall scheme.

This will take account of government proposals to cut housing rents by 1% annually for the next four years, to sell the highest value council homes when the tenants move out, and for any household living in a council home, with an income of over £30k, to pay up to the market rent.

Together, these changes would mean that building new homes becomes financially challenging for the council and increases the risk that debts would be harder to pay back.

Against this backdrop, further analysis would look at a range of options involving different combinations of the council building some homes and working with a social housing developer to build them.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We know there will be disruption while work is under way so we will be working hard with our partners, including Cambridge BID, to put in place a series of measures to mitigate the impact.

“This will include promoting the other car and cycle parks in the city centre where spaces are available, bus services and also the park and ride. We will also work with the BID to get the message across loud and clear that businesses in the Park Street area are open as normal.

“We know there is a desperate need for new homes and we are committed to investigating and maximising affordable housing at Park Street. We will need to do further detailed work on our options because our original plans for more homes are not now possible given the announcements in the government’s July budget statement.”