Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Failure to progress improved parking facilities criticised


I have criticised the City Council’s failure to progress a committee decision to improve parking on the University of Dundee campus edge – at Hunter Street – by simply ‘sitting on the decision’ despite committee approval to proceed.

In May 2008, the City Council approved a report to provide a replacement car park in Hunter Street at the edge of the university campus.  As the Planning and Transport Convener at the time, I greatly welcomed this proposal.  

The Hunter Street replacement car park proposal makes a good deal of sense.   There’s a huge parking demand in the area around the university campus and building more provision here would relieve congestion in local streets in the West End.   It is deeply disappointing that the council is failing to progress a committee decision or even bothering to update committee on a decision it took.

I recently asked the City Council’s Head of Transportation for an update on progress with the decision of council committee to progress a replacement Hunter Street car park.    I was advised in response :

“In terms of the Hunter Street Multi Storey Car Park, there is no proposal for Hunter Street in the Capital Plan.  Present parking levels in the city do not justify additional provision.  We need to absorb the new Allan Street/Olympia MSCP before considering any further MSCP provision.”

In response, I pointed out:

“There was a clear commitment to go ahead with this replacement car park after Greenmarket and East Marketgait were completed.   The City Engineer advised me back in 2009 it had got as far as being advertised in the European Journal and the suggestion that parking levels do not justify it flies in the face of the evidence –  it is right on the campus edge.

The project to build a better larger capacity car park at Hunter Street was agreed in 2008.   Given the significant extent of “university related vehicles” parking on many streets in the West End close to the University, the proposal would provide such drivers with a parking facility very close to the campus.

As I recall, a detailed project programme was to be prepared in 2009 but the design, procurement and construction was held back pending other car parks being completed.   When that happened I was given assurances that the project was not being dumped and I would be extremely unhappy if this is now the case.   

To quote the Director of City Development from 2010 when the project was put back:

“In light of the downturn in the property development market and the need to evaluate the operational success of the new multi storey car park to be built at East Marketgait, we will not now progress Hunter Street until the medium term ie we will revisit the proposal after 2012.”

Improving the parking here would significantly assist overspill into West End residential streets and make it easier for students and university staff to get parked too.

I recall nothing coming to committee to rescind the original committee approval and I would suggest you can’t just dump the proposal without going back to committee.”

In response, the Director of City Development indicated :

“Fraser

Can I please comment as follows;

1.  The marketing of this site did not deliver a viable development partner.  Since then economic conditions have worsened and general parking demand has reduced across the city centre.  Proceeding with a development project would not be successful at this time.

2.  I would want to have at least a full year's trading experience at the New Olympia Multi-Storey Car Park, before even considering seeking further prudential borrowing for a further MSCP in the city.  I think that it would be extremely difficult to justify such expenditure at this time.

3.  I have never given an assurance that this project would happen.  The fact that the current approved Capital Plan 2012-16 makes no provision for such a project, reflects the level of commercial doubt over the prudence and viability of such a scheme for the foreseeable future.

We will, however, keep the situation under review should conditions improve."

I have written back to the Director in the following terms :

“I would be grateful for detail of the evidence of lesser parking demand in the vicinity of Hunter Street.   Whilst I do not doubt your statement that general parking demand in the city centre has lessened in the recent economic climate, Hunter Street would have provided better parking facilities in the vicinity of the University of Dundee Campus, where I see nothing but sustained demand and a situation that, because parking provision is less than supply, a spilling out of vehicles into on-street provision in the West End.

The department is about to consult on a residents’ parking scheme for area of the Perth Road district shopping centre and adjacent streets.  This envisages only ways of rationing the existing provision but has no proposals as to extending provision and dealing with the overflow of vehicles from the campus.   The Hunter Street proposal would have tackled that.   

The original committee report indicated :

“4.3 An Economic Option Appraisal has been carried out to establish and analyse the Strategic Context, the Defined Need for the Project, the Objectives and Constraints and a list of options were identified. The options were examined in detail and a short list of options were subsequently costed and assessed in accordance with the Council's Capital Budgetary Control guidance.”

Has a further option appraisal been made that gives new evidence for not proceeding?

Furthermore, as there is a “live” committee decision to proceed (12th May 2008), should not, in terms of the council’s democratic processes, you now bring back a report on the matter if the view of your department now conflicts with the council’s agreed policy position?”    

As I have indicated to the Director of City Development, the council is finally about to consult on a residents’ parking scheme for area of the Perth Road district shopping centre and adjacent streets.  My concern is that the council has failed to progress improved parking that would relieve the situation on local streets. 

However, in addition to that, it appears that a decision made unanimously by a council committee and at the time welcomed by the now SNP Convener of City Development, has been quietly ditched with no progress but equally no update given to a council committee.    It looks like a case of a decision of the council being simply “sat on” and flies in the face of the democratic processes of the council.