Banbury’s Bolton Road carpark lowers its barriers for good.
Banbury residents and business owners are outraged at Cherwell District Councils decision to permanently close the town’s original multi-storey carpark.
The anger stems from a number reasons chief among them the perceived lack of forward planning in either providing a viable alternative to the sudden loss of 620 parking spaces or why money has not been invested into the structure to maintain it as a functional car park.
Local business owners in the Parsons Street area of town are worried that the closure will result in a reduction of walk by customers who will now have to park elsewhere and may not venture to that part of town.
One business owner who did not want to be named said: “It’s bad for the town as there is already a lack of affordable parking in the town. I didn’t hear about the closure until Monday (June 13).”
The carpark was closed on Friday June 10 with the official reason being stated by the council as ‘significant structural issues’.
In a statement the CDC said: “This part of the town has been identified for significant regeneration, and as part of the ongoing scoping and appraisal works, a recent inspection of the car park was undertaken.”
“During the inspection, which was conducted by an independent structural engineer, some significant structural issues were identified. Discussions have subsequently taken place between CDC and the leasehold operator, Indigo (formerly Meteor Parking), to consider appropriate options in terms of the possible continued operation of the facility, resulting in both parties agreeing to suspend the use of the building with immediate effect.”
Council deputy leader George Reynolds said: “The future of the car park was one of the significant areas being considered in respect of the wider regeneration opportunities to improve the town centre environment.”
“Whilst we had not intended to close the facility this early, we have now, in light of the latest inspection, no option but to do so. Both CDC and Indigo take the findings of the structural engineers advice seriously and in coming to a decision, we agreed to cease the use of the facility due to the health and safety implications of customers using the car park and the community generally which are always of primary concern.”
Labour group leader on Banbury Town Council, Steve Kilsby said: “I am appalled at the precipitate manner in which Cherwell District Council have acted in closing the car park. This is disastrous for Banbury, and could be the death knell for sustainable shopping in the town centre. To have done this is bad enough, but to have done it with no notice at all, 2 days before the Banbury Show took place, beggars belief.”
“I believe that CDC have known about structural failings in this car park for many years. When I was a CDC Councillor in the 1990s, there was talk about it, and I believe consultants were employed to address the issue then, and that some work was done. If so, this was clearly ineffective, and a waste of tax payers money.”
“It may be that the HSE or some other august body has now decided the car park had to close, but CDCs own engineers must have seen this coming. Other than the Bolton Road redevelopment plan, which is far from getting off the ground, what arrangements has CDC made to mitigate this possibility? None at all, as far as I can see, for there is scarcely any alternative parking available in the town centre.”
“I do not want to see our town centre die, but the welcome visitors now receive to a town with no parking and yet another concrete canker in its’ midst is not edifying, and is most definitely against Banbury’s interests. I am afraid it is only too clear that CDC is run by people who do not know or care about Banbury, or this would never have been allowed to happen. I am not after anyone’s blood here, but we all must now demand that CDC put in place additional replacement parking immediately, in order to stop the slow death of our town centre.”
Indeed, in the late 1990s the carpark was closed while localised repairs to deck slabs were carried out due to chloride contamination.
The abruptness of the closure took both residents, business owners and community groups by surprise.
Banbury Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman, Nick Poole said: “We were disappointed to learn about the sudden closure and understand it will have significant implications. We appreciate the need for the Council to follow procedures and make correct decisions in the interest of public safety. We are in contact with the membership of the Chamber of Commerce to obtain their feedback on the closure and we will provide this feedback to Cherwell District Council.”
Cherwell District Council have advised users of the, now closed, multi-storey to make alternative parking arrangements and have advised that existing permit holders will be able to transfer to alternative Council-managed car parks.
Malcolm Douglas, Henry’s Menswear proprietor said: “What on earth has happened. How did it get into that state? Two or three years ago they (CDC) should have been looking at ways to replace it, not allow supermarkets to take up the slack.”