EXCLUSIVE: Cotswold Town plays waiting game over promised car park
By Simon Hacker | 10th October 2023
A public car park that was promised as a business and tourism gamechanger for a Cotswold market town will imminently be 18 months overdue - with little sign of progress between planners, local councillors and the developer.
Six years on from the original application - made on this day in 2017 to Stroud District Council by Cirencester-based Colburn Homes Ltd - The Hawthornes development was for a dozen homes proposed outside Wotton-under-Edge's development boundary on land off Symn Lane. Amid approval, two years later, the project has been through several twists and turns, including a change of developer, to Cardiff-based CHR, before construction work finally began.
Councillors at SDC agreed by one vote to permit the green-field project, which included a new access road, but added a Section 106 clause for the provision of a public car park for 80 cars, as well as two coach bays.
Eight executive homes were subsequently built with most being marketed and sold in excess of £1m by Wotton agent David James; a row of four shared ownership homes were also constructed adjacent to the car park, which remains semi-built and unusable. Final dressing of the road for the estate is also incomplete and, in an apparent gesture of frustration, a handmade sign for the estate's access road has now been set at the entrance.
Full permission for the project was eventually granted in 2019 after a heated debate and strong local protest, with councillors successfully arguing, in line with the support of the town's MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, that the advantage of the car park outweighed planning and environmental concerns over the breach of the town boundary and construction within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But with the car park due to have been handed over to Wotton-under-Edge Town Council in May 2022, the Liberal Democrat leader of the Cooperative Alliance-led SDC and local ward councillor Ken Tucker, told Punchline-Gloucester.com that complications over electric car charging provision - which was an embedded proviso to the deal - have halted any handover.
Cllr Tucker said: "I am aware that Wotton Town Council are in continuing discussions with the developers CHR and SDC over unfinished features attached to this housing development, including the provision of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points."
He added: "An attempt by the developers to delete 12 car parking spaces from the previously approved planning application was overruled by SDC at their Development Control Committee on June 13th. These spaces are the most convenient for those with disability and/or children to attend the local doctors.
Cllr Tucker added that he believed the eveloper was "undertaking a further review of this area to the west of the development."
As reported in Punchline in August , Gloucestershire County Council has begun a rollout of EV public EV chargepoints across the county with 26 stations being installed - none, however, being allocated to suitable places in SDC's patch, despite the council's bid for allocation.
Cllr Tucker said: "EV points for 'community use' are essential if we are to attract visitors, as well as achieving carbon neutrality, by significantly reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is very disappointing therefore that Gloucestershire County Council has thought it fit to completely omit Stroud District from its roll-out of EV points across the rest of Gloucestershire!"
However, despite the omission from the County Council, SDC's Environment Committee have agreed a local roll-out of EV points in their own carparks, with an earmarked provision for SDC's Potter's Pond car park.
Cllr Tucker added: "In Wotton this would be at Potter's Pond but sadly not in the [main] Chipping, as this is not SDC owned and the local power supply inadequate to power EV provision."
However, SDC is now reported to be considering support for EV charger bays at the new Symn Lane car park.
Cllr Tucker added: "The first EV points are expected to be available by the end of the year. Local Town and District Councillors are doing what they can to enable the carpark to be opened as soon as possible."
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