18 September 2016
23 Shrublands Road
Planning, development and regeneration,
Dacorum Borough Council,
17th September 2016
Dear Ms Bogle,
Berkhamsted Multi-Storey Car Park – Planning Application 4/00122/16/MFA
I am writing once again to express my objection to DBC’s proposals to build an ugly, huge and unnecessary multi-storey car park (MSCP) in the heart of the beautiful, historic market town of Berkhamsted. I have corresponded twice before and received no replies to either (attached as appendices – and to be included as part of this objection). The planning meetings that have taken place at Berkhamsted Town Council and Dacorum Council have failed to address the numerous issues that have been raised by concerned residents. Meanwhile the proposal seems to bulldoze on regardless. Can it be any wonder that people become disillusioned with politicians and switch off from municipal activities when democratic voices are so blatantly ridden over in such dismissive fashion?.
The consultation with local residents has been poor to the point of non-existence. In recent weeks I have come across several people who still have never heard of the proposal but when they do, and I show a photo of the proposal the response is universally the same: the problem in Berkhamsted is not parking, it is congestion and this building is horrible to the point of disfigurement. I would suggest that if the Council wish to proceed with something of such an impact and longevity that rather more consultation than normal is warranted and would support the Council sending a mailshot (with even handed arguments of the pros and cons of the proposal) to every Berkhamsted household with an invitation to comment.
There is nothing in the planning documents that justify the need for additional parking spaces. The existing ground level open space facility is almost never full and certainly it is never the case that all car parks in Berkhamsted are full simultaneously. However, even at this less than full usage the access via Lower Kings Road is a real problem – because the access from Kings Road is shared with Waitrose this junction becomes a bottleneck and traffic backs up both ways: up towards the High Street and down towards the station. This presumably could only become worse if the additional spaces are ever utilised.
We know that busy, congested, roads creates more frustration and makes roads less safe for pedestrians to cross as well as further worsening the air quality, already at dangerously high levels of pollution in Lower Kings Road. Air pollution is a topic very much in the news recently due to the greater mortality rates generated by car fumes than previously realised. DBC know all this, which is why they have published various strategy documents in the past committing themselves to reducing congestion, improving air quality, reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing public transport and pedestrian access (various references to these docs highlighted in previous correspondence) and so it is perverse that the Council come forward with this proposal that flies in the face of all these good intentions. Were these strategy documents all just intended to be a load of greenwash to be ignored when it comes to real decisions?
There are lots of possibilities to reduce congestion including a round town hopper bus service (which should be subsidised due to its environmental benefits for the local population) and/or park and ride facilities at each end of the town. Better integration of all the town car parks including the station – linking the utilisation levels to electronic notice boards on the access roads into town so that drivers are directed to those car parks with spaces.
The building itself is ugly and while much is made in the planning documents of the wooden slatting this will be likely to mould and rot in years to come and I would be very interested to know how expensive this building would be to maintain in a safe, clean and attractive condition.
The existing airy open space would be replaced by this gargantuan monstrosity that could never be described as “in keeping” with local architecture. This building would be there for decades to come and will be a terrible legacy for the future (which Councillor wants their legacy to Berkhamsted to be spoiling this lovely town by cramming the streets with excessive traffic logjams, polluting air and plonking a giant meccano box in the middle of it?)
This brooding building will create dark, threatening spaces around it and make it an unsafe area to walk through particularly in evenings and night-time.
Then there is the cost. This is currently budgeted at £3.6m with an expected income (before any maintenance or running costs) of £200k per annum. This is a particularly poor return on capital investment. We often hear about how cash starved local authorities are and so I find it surprising that this is the best thing that the Council can think of. It smacks, frankly, of money burning a hole in their pockets. The costs of providing congestion reducing solutions suggested above are small in comparison and one could add the costs of improving cycle and pedestrian access – our pavements are very poorly maintained this making them more of a challenge for push chairs and motability vehicles.
There are other priorities as well: for example we recently have been told that the much loved Elderly Care Unit at Gossoms End must close for good (remember the empty promise last Setember that this would be “temporary”). In addition, schools are reducing teacher:pupil ratios and cannot afford books or maintain buildings properly – do we really want to build more car parks rather than invest in our children’s life development?.
To summarise I would like the Council to either cancel this project outright or, at the very least, conduct a thorough consultation via a simple mailshot to all residents that:
Paul de Hoest