Hospital car park plans hit with catalogue of setbacks

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

PLANS to build new pay and display car parks for Tameside Hospital have been hit by a catalogue of setbacks with costs set to soar by an extra £200,000, it’s been revealed.

Council bosses originally agreed to spend £950,000 to create five new parking facilities at Darnton Road which would have produced around 500 spaces.

The aim was to increase car parking provision for the hospital and Stamford Park, and reduce the problem of people parking on residential side streets.

It was thought that the investment would pay for itself in around two years, and actually generate in the region of £440,000 a year for the town hall.

But an update presented to the strategic planning and capital monitoring panel has revealed the construction costs have soared after encountering a number of unforeseen stumbling blocks.

Two of the planned car parks have had to be ditched, and the total number of spaces reduced to 365.

So far the income for the council this financial year is expected to be only £5,000.

A report by council officer Alan Jackson states that the building work costs have risen by £198,000 and plans to include new electric charging points have hiked the total bill to £1.68million.

Having to pay more and getting less back than they expected means that bosses have had to increase the payback period beyond two years.

The largest facility, ‘car park five’, which has 230 spaces on the opposite side of the boating late became operational in September.

But the pay and display machines in it have been subjected to ‘repeated vandalism’ and consequently the town hall have been ‘unable to collect income on a regular basis from this car park’, according to the report.

It comes after a range of issues, including extra excavations, removal of Japansese Knotweed and more tree clearances resulted in ‘signficant increased costs’ to create that car park.

Invasive plants are also presenting a problem on the third car park, resulting in extra costs.

Meanwhile in order for the second car park to become pay and display, the council has to ask the government for a highway ‘stopping up’ order.

But utility companies are currently objecting to the proposal over concerns about access, which has delayed its opening.

It had been thought that the largest car park would generate a thousand pounds per space a year, with the other car parks nearer to the hospital earning £1,350 a space.

The remaining car parks are expected to open between now and June later this year.

Emma Varnam, assistant director for operations and neighbourhoods, told members: “We’ve had slippage in time either for our car-parking scheme or our payback as part of the scheme.

“We’re proposing to put in some additional charging points in our hospital car parking schemes which actually align with our green agenda and our aspiration to encourage electric car use.”

There are around five car parks in the borough that have electric charging points, which can currently be used for free.

They were introduced to incentivise electric vehicle use, Ian Saxon, director of operations and neighbourhoods said, adding that the town hall was ‘absorbing the costs’ at this moment in time.

However, council leader Brenda Warrington told the meeting that they should get charging points across all the town in Tameside but that they should not be free.

“As the use of electric cars starts to increase, we are going to have to start charging and I’ve got to be honest we have got to do that sooner rather than later,” she said.

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