It is widely recognised there are problems with parking cars on or near to Main Street, Dickens Heath. The answer has to be the creation of a sustainable solution.
The internet link shown here identifies the consultation the borough council launched last year into transport connectivity: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/solihullconnected . You will read the rationale for this consultation and the Green Paper can be accessed here: Solihull_Connected_LRP this, hopefully, sets the scene and provides a wide perspective as to car usage and finding a sustainable outcome for the borough.
Effect by Planning and Development:
It does appear problems escalated because of the change of use of the former Parkridge offices to become apartments. Those who may not be aware should understand that Parkridge was the development company for the village but went into receivership prior to the completion of the village. Things were in stalemate for several years until the administrators, BNP Parabas, sold much of the development rights on to Elegant Homes who sought planning permission to change the use of the former offices to apartments.
The planning application for the change of use is posted here: 201493 – REPORT BY HEAD OF DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT You will read from the document that planning law essentially allowed the change of use without redress to the local planning authority. It also highlighted that the car park behind Morton’s was in fact a private car park, owned by the administrator, and that Solihull Council could not refuse the planning application, which sought an allocation of private car parking spaces for new tenants, on these grounds. The report does though identify through its parking accumulation assessment ‘The parking accumulation assessment indicates that the B1 (a) office use could generate parking demand for up to 126 spaces if brought into use. Therefore the proposed change of use to residential has the potential to reduce the levels of parking demand…’
Essentially, we could therefore determine that IF the premises became the base for a commercial company as many as 126 spaces could be taken up by the new owners. This could have a devastating effect, especially during the day time.
With this in mind I engaged in communication with Elegant Homes and following meetings with the managing director they agreed to create an additional 11 new spaces in the area behind Mortons. They did not have to do this but even though there was a net loss in spaces but the case stands that it might have been different if a commercial company had taken over the use of the former offices.
Garden Squares development:
The derelict Garden Squares East project is also in the hands of Elegant Homes and the site will be built to pretty well the same specifications as was intended (but without new commercial properties). This will create over 100 new properties eventually and work has commenced, or is about to. This will obviously create pressure in the area during construction but Elegant Homes have identified as many as 40 car spaces can be made over for use by the community. There were spurious allegations that each was for sale at £2,000 but the spaces will be made freely available to take up car parking pressures on and around Main Street when the development is completed. It can therefore be claimed there is light at the end of the tunnel and a sustainable solution identified. This may not be perfect for all involved but the way forward is soundly based.
I feel I do need to identify here the work Elegant Homes have put in to finding a short term and sustainable solution to car parking in and round Main Street. I do know some people blame them and the council for the problems but we could be dealing with developers who do not have the same interest as Elegant Homes and might not be so helpful. I do appreciate the efforts of Barney McElholm of Elegant Homes.
Breaches of planning conditions?
I am aware of leaflets being distributed that claim Solihull Council has breached planning conditions when allowing Elegant Homes planning permission. I do know Dickens Heath Parish Council has met with the most senior of Planning Officers at Solihull Planning Department and that Solihull’s planning officers refute any claims that such planning conditions have been broken. Have taken advice from the planning officers and accept their legal findings.
I am aware that traders have complained their tenancy agreements might have been breached but this is a matter for the civil courts and borough Councillor Richard Holt, who is a solicitor, has suggested they should take legal advice to see if that any civil redress can be achieved. I do not know if traders have progressed this action.
Where are we now?
Unfortunately we are in a situation where we have to await the development of Garden Squares East and the resulting 40+ new car parking spaces that will become available – creating a net gain on where we were this time last year. These new spaces, plus the new local customers on the immediate doorstep of Main Street traders, as well as those in the new development further along Dickens Heath Road can only be great news for traders.
Timed parking restrictions are on the agenda following a petition I submitted to Solihull Council last year. I do understand there will be issues to resolve as to how many spaces this will apply to and the length of time that drivers will be allowed to stay, but these can be resolved. What can not at present is the legality of it because Main Street is not an adopted road and is owned by the administrator. They do not support the installation of parking restrictions because they are trying to find a buyer for the sites under administration. Once a new owner is identified the council will work towards getting a solution for this issue.
We all could use more sustainable transport, by walking and cycling, to local services. There may also be initiatives traders can do themselves to create more space for customers, each trader may have different way of achieving this.
I know some residents and traders do not like it when I state we have to wait for the Garden Squares project to be completed but that is the stark reality. There have been suggestions on the local Facebook group for the council to create a multi-storey car park at the rear of Morton’s (this is private property) and also to take up some of the village green by having a parking area between the hedgerow and the green itself; I can not support either suggestion but do wish for the Garden Squares East development to finish as soon as possible for the new spaces to come on-line.