ANGRY traders in Leamington are demanding action from council chiefs over the loss of vital car parking in the town centre.
Royal Leamington Spa Chamber of Trade fear businesses will be badly hit during the building of Warwick District Council’s new headquarters which will see Covent Garden car park out of action for at least a year. The 500 plus bay car park currently provides around 30 per cent of off-street parking in the town.
A Chamber spokesman said: “In comparison to other similarly sized towns, our parking provision is already at saturation point during peak times. The economic viability of the town is constantly under threat from a variety of factors and if shoppers, visitors and staff members find it impossible to drive into town and park, they will soon choose alternative destinations; especially shoppers using out of town shopping areas with dedicated parking.
“There is one overriding cause of concern, which is the lack of a properly developed parking displacement plan.
“It has become clear following extensive discussions with the district council and other representative bodies, that what has been put forward to mitigate the loss of parking spaces during the two year development, is at best a collection of ideas and possibilities, rather than a plan with appropriate financial backing.”
Back in August, the council said it was making plans to manage the impact of the temporary loss of parking and find ways to minimise disruption to residents, businesses and visitors.
District council leader Andrew Mobbs said: “We fully understand the need for a robust parking displacement strategy and we are currently working on that ahead of the planning application being considered, as it is something the council take extremely seriously.
“The development of the Covent Garden site will bring significant economic benefits to the town centre and its businesses in terms of increased footfall and the improvement of a vital gateway site. We believe that the majority of residents welcome these benefits and support the regeneration proposals.
“All major town centre developments involve temporary disruption and car parking is a major part of that. We are confident that we will have a robust car parking displacement plan to minimise the disruption and we will be consulting with the BID and the Chamber of Trade to ensure their views and comments are heard and taken into account.”
Planning permission for the new headquarters, together with some 40 flats and a new 600 plus multi-storey car park was granted in April.
The scheme will be partly funded by the sale of the council’s current Riverside House hq to developers, together with the Covent Garden flats.
And the new offices, which are expected to cost somewhere in the region of £8.6million, will be completely paid for by the new housing development while the council will be funding the new £9.75million car park
The council hope to save around £300,000 annually by moving to the new hq which they say will be much smaller but more suitable for the 21st century needs of staff.
The project is scheduled to be completed by next autumn.