PLANS to develop a car park in Wimborne with affordable housing have been attacked by traders in the town who say the town has too few parking spaces at it is, without adding to the problem by removing some.
East Dorset District Council's resources committee at the end of October agreed in principle to the scheme to build up to eight homes on the car park in Old Road, which they claimed was underused. The 43 parking spaces had In the year to October 2011 generated only £6,860 in pay and display revenue, compared with annual running costs of £895, occasional resurfacing costs of £18,000 and meter renewal every ten years of £3,000.
The scheme drawn up in association with Raglan Housing would generate capital receipts of £220,000, and mean loss of revenue of only around £1000 a year because the majority of usage could be accommodated elsewhere.
They were told a survey of Wimborne car park usage during 2010 revealed that out of 119 inspections, there were only 13 occasions when the Westfield Close car park could not accommodate the vehicles parked in Old Road, and only eight when there was insufficient capacity in that and other nearby car parks.
They were also reminded that since that survey, a further 215 parking spaces had been created at the new Waitrose supermarket at Rowlands Hill.
But Ian Burdekin, manager of Waitrose, said: "Losing parking spaces is questionable as a long term strategy in terms of future growth and development to the town. On the busiest days of the week we are already close to capacity, and the growth we are expecting is likely take up the majority of our parking on busiest trading days, Thursday to Saturday. There are also significant plans by the highway authority to increase the amount of double yellow lines, which will drive on street parkers into the car parks."
Shortly before the resources committee meeting, Chris Slocock, chairman of Wimborne BID, wrote to the council stating the opposition of local traders to the proposal.
He outlined objections on the grounds that there should be no reduction of car parking spaces in the town, that there were more suitable sites for affordable housing, and that they did not accept the site's un-viability as a car park or the argument that the Waitrose car parking justified the loss of Old Road.
"A decision on this site should be deferred so that a "best management study" can be undertaken and an overall review on how best to use, what we consider to be Community Assets, such as parking spaces in the town, as previously requested by the BID.
"Old Road car park should be identified as a long stay parking area and marketed as such, freeing up other parking areas nearer the centre for short stay parking."
He added that proposals for double yellow lines in Allenview Road would mean a further reduction in parking spaces, an advocated a policy of expanding overall parking in the town as demand increased through active marketing and promotion and expansion of housing.
"Recent growth in parking figures would seem to support that assumption," he said, adding that if the proposed development went ahead, income from the site should be used to acquire parking spaces elsewhere, in line with best practice for community assets.
Matt Renaut of electrical retailers Dacombe and Renaut in Old Street said: "Our customers use the car park all the time, and it is often three quarters full. The problem is that Wimborne doesn't have enough parking, let alone losing anything, and I don't believe it is something the district council should be doing. A number of flats are going up in West Street close to us, and I don't think there is a need for more in this area."
Tim Davis, East Dorset's housing development and enabling manager, said the committee had made a carefully considered decision after considerable debate, and the letter from Wimborne BID was mentioned and discussed.
"But the view was that there was a lot of evidence of underuse of the car park, and figures to justify providing affordable housing, to which the authority had given a very strong commitment.
A survey by the Countryside Alliance in 2011 found the authority's plans to build only 23 affordable homes in that financial year represented only five per cent of the housing need, and was the second worst of 306 councils surveyed.