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INTERVIEWS: Strong words from Lancaster businesses as concerns grow over future of car parking

Graham Cass from Jo & Cass, Julie Shaw from Simply Baby and Jon Davis from the Golden Lion are all worried about the future of car parking in Lancaster

Three Lancaster business owners have spoken out strongly against council plans for the future of car parking in the city centre.

A public consultation on the Lancaster City Council draft car parking strategy is due to close on May 13.

In the meantime Graham Cass, of Jo & Cass hair salon on Great John Street, has set up a petition, worried that the council's plans to shut car parks could kill the Lancaster high street.

The council wants to build new housing on existing car parks at Nelson Street and St Leonardgate, as part of its Canal Quarter development plans.

But Mr Cass said: "We do on average 1200 customers a week and not one person supported plans to close Nelson Street and St Leonardgate car parks. It would be the death knell of the high street.

LISTEN to our interview with Graham Cass

"Most of my clients don't know about it and yet in the consultation it says they have consulted with the public," said Mr Cass.

"It's utter rubbish. It's pie in the sky. It's fantasy. This will destroy us.

"There are days when our staff can't park. Our customers' biggest problem is that they can't find a car parking space.

"(The council) are anti-business, anti-customers, anti-enjoyment of the city. It will be tumbleweed going down the high street with loads of shut-up shops. I'm panicking. I'm frightened. I just can't believe it's being proposed to happen. The backlash is huge out here. It's HUGE. I'm not sleeping about it, I'm that worried about it. We have to fight this one. Please sign the petition."

The strategy mentions long-term plans to replace covered car parks at St Nicholas Arcades and the Castle with new transport hubs/multi-storey car parks on the fringes of the city centre. 

A review of the "condition and utility" of the council-owned St Nicholas Arcades car park and Castle car park could be carried out within the next decade and a feasibility study into the new transport hubs completed within the next seven years.

But Mr Cass said: "So you're disabled, you've got disabled children, you're elderly, you're infirm, you're feeling really ill, you want to carry stuff, you've got your shopping...you're not going to park and walk into the city. Why would you?

"We've got to have a better offering to ensure the future of this lovely city. If we don't, it's going to be derelict.

"There will be boarded-up shops. It will be horrendous."

Julie Shaw, who has run her Simply Baby shop in Lancaster for 18 years, said the draft car parking strategy was "without doubt the biggest challenge in my business's history".

LISTEN to our interview with Julie Shaw from Simply Baby (pictured below)

"We managed to work through Storm Desmond and Covid, but these plans are absolutely catastrophic for the local businesses and residents in this area," she said.

"The majority of customers come in through Caton Road and they are struggling to find spaces even now, even if off-peak periods. It's not a straightforward issue at all.

"The concerning points are there was flawed data. We asked them to relook at it and start listening to businesses. We were promised transparency. That just hasn't happened. Nothing appears to have changed.

"As a local resident I'm all for regeneration of the Canal Quarter, I'm all for affordable housing. But not at the expense of parking and businesses."

Jon Davis, landlord of the Golden Lion for the past 17 years, said that he is also worried for the pub's future due to the plans to build housing nearby.

LISTEN to our interview with Jon Davis from the Golden Lion (pictured below)

"I don't think I've ever known it so bad, where you've got these thoughts in the back of your head about what's going to happen," said Mr Davis.

"I was a big fan of the Canal Quarter development when it was in its infancy. I've got to the point now that I don't want it to happen because I'm really fearful of the effect it's going to have on this place.

"If we are totally surrounded by houses, the Golden Lion won't be able to function as we are now. It could spell the end for us.

"I think they really need to think long and hard about the approach they're taking.

"Do they really want their legacy to be that they've turned Lancaster into a ghost town?"

WHAT IS IN THE DRAFT CAR PARKING STRATEGY?

The draft strategy says the council aims to provide 1300 to 1400 off-street parking spaces in Lancaster city centre in future to "provide sufficient capacity for currently identified peak demand periods".

There are currently a total of 1624 parking spaces in city council-run car parks in Lancaster city centre.

This includes permit-holders only car parking and the 287-space Castle Car Park, which is currently closed for refurbishment due to safety reasons but is due to reopen in 2025.

Also in the draft strategy - three permit-only car parks in Lancaster would be converted to short-stay within the next three years, parking at the car park opposite the old Kingsway bus station would be expanded to create 20-70 new long-stay spaces, and 70-150 temporary coach and car parking spaces would also be created on council land by early 2025 at locations to be confirmed.

Lancaster City Council said this would be to counteract the planned loss of parking spaces when new housing is built on the Nelson Street and St Leonardsgate car parks as part of the planned Canal Quarter development.

A loss of 126 spaces is expected from mid-2025 at Nelson Street, followed by a loss of 181 spaces and six coach parking spaces at Upper and Lower St Leonardsgate by 2026.

There are also long-term plans to build on the 89-space Edward Street car park, but the council said there would be a "managed and phased release" of car parking spaces to "ensure limited net loss".

The city council said that any net loss of spaces would not affect the continuing availability of private parking in Lancaster, nor the availability of on-street parking provided by Lancashire County Council.

The draft strategy also includes a plan to close all 'small surface' car parks within 15 years.

These include Lucy Street, Wood Street, Spring Garden Street, Windy Hill and Bridget Street car parks. But the council said that "any potential closure of these car parks will be dependent on the success of the long term strategy".

The draft strategy also includes promoting the use of modern technology for car parking payments, developing an electric vehicle charging strategy, and encouraging use of existing Park and Ride facilities including the 650-space Park and Ride at the junction of Caton Road and the M6 Junction 34, which is run by Lancashire County Council.

Read more: INTERVIEW: More revealed on future of multi-storey car parks in Lancaster city centre - Beyond Radio

Councillor Jean Parr, Lancaster City Council cabinet member for planning and place, appeared on Beyond Radio's 'Beyond the Headlines' show in March to answer questions on the draft car parking strategy.

LISTEN AGAIN to the interview here

Read more: Two Lancaster multi-storey car parks could be replaced by new 'transport hubs' on outskirts of city - Beyond Radio

A Lancaster City Council spokesperson said: "The strategy aims to provide reassurance to both businesses and community stakeholders that the council can provide sufficient parking spaces whilst maintaining its overarching commitment to climate action and delivering other priorities such as new homes for local people.

"Through its declared Climate Emergency, the council also recognises the need to support the transitioning to an accessible and inclusive low-carbon and active transport system, promoting cycling, walking and increased use of public transport.    

"The strategy aims to strike a balance in future provision so that:  

  • Car parks are in the right place, reducing need for vehicle circulation through and around the city centre.
  • Sufficient parking options are available to service the needs of the evening and cultural economy.
  • The Offer is of a good quality, safe and attractive to customers.
  • Blue badge holders and those with greater accessibility needs are provided for.
  • Future sustainable transport strategy and development proposals recognise the continuing and necessary role of car parking availability for the city centre.
  • The permanent car park offer is fit for the future; particularly for the use of electric vehicles and better accommodates alternative transport modes (cycle parking/car share hubs) and active/low emission travel amenity.

"In all actions, it will be essential that the city council works closely with Lancashire County Council as the highways and transport authority to explicitly integrate the long-term planning, placement, and types of parking facilities into the sustainable travel and transport policy agenda for the city."

The Lancaster City Council draft car parking strategy for Lancaster city centre can be found here.

The consultation period closes on Monday, May 13 at noon.

The results from the consultation will be presented to elected councillors to help create the finalised Lancaster city centre car parking strategy.

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