Car park plans hang in the balance

Controversial plans for a multi-storey car park in Berkhamsted have been knocked back after heritage bosses voiced concerns.

Friday, 17th June 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:17 pm
An artist's impression of the proposed multi-storey car park in Lower Kings Road, Berkhamsted

Dacorum Borough Council’s proposal for a 312-space four-storey-high car park on Lower Kings Road is for a site in the town’s conservation area, which is already home to a 122-space pay and display car park owned by the authority.

But the proposal, which was first submitted in January, has hit the buffers because members of the council’s own cultural heritage team took issue with the plans, along with Hertfordshire County Council’s highways department.

The council has not commented on what these objections were, but it is thought potential traffic congestion was a sticking point – one which has been raised extensively by locals.

New plans are currently being worked on but there is currently no scheduled date for the proposal to go before the council’s development control committee, meaning the aim of having the car park operational by Christmas could now be just a pipe dream.

A spokesman for Dacorum Borough Council said: “Herts County Council’s highways department and Dacorum Borough Council’s conservation officer raised concerns throughout the consultation period regarding the scheme.

“The planning department is anticipating receiving amended plans in response to these comments.

“Once received, a new consultation from the planning department will take place with the community and statutory consultees.”

An online petition has gathered more than 1,000 signatures from locals who believe a multi-storey car park is the wrong answer to the town’s long-standing parking problem, while others say the eco-friendly structure will be an eyesore.

In a report published earlier this year by community group the Friends of Berkhamsted, which opposes the plans, it said: “The junctions used to access the proposed MSCP will not accommodate the additional traffic.

“To such an extent that traffic will queue well beyond the station in Lower Kings Road for an extended period – not just at peak periods.”

The report looked into a traffic model of the junctions from Lower Kings Road into the car park, taking into account all the variables that affect the flow of traffic including the junctions, how they interact, the Waitrose car park barrier and the pedestrian crossing.

It said: “The traffic could be queued back along Lower Kings Road from the entrance to the car park to beyond the railwaystation.

“This will bring the town centre to a stand-still and the delays which drivers experience will be horrendous.”

Talking about the effect on the market town, the report argued: “The multi-storey car park will not contribute to the local economy nor help make Berkhamsted more vibrant.

“In fact, by closing the existing Lower Kings Road car park during the construction period, it could make the local economy worse.”