Proposals to redevelop the sole car park on The Pantiles have been labelled ‘unacceptable’ by the borough councillor representing the ward.
Lawrence Heasman, who serves on the council for The Pantiles and St Mark’s, said he would not support the plans to turn the car park into a four-storey block of flats as it would result in a lack of parking in an area ‘already devoid’ of spaces.
His reaction comes as the Finance and Governance Cabinet Advisory Board met last night [Tuesday] to debate the issue as the Times went to press.
The report presented to the committee recommends the council push ahead with a scheme to build 20 flats over three floors, alongside a single office suite at ground level, on the car park site.
However, despite also recommending a new two-storey car park with 40 spaces be included in the development, the report acknowledges that only 17 of them will be available to the public.
This represents a reduction of 37 parking spaces on the current number available, and even these may not be ready for up to two years while building work is undertaken. It is also likely to lead to the demolition the auction house on the site.
Acknowledging opposition to the plans from many of the businesses based on the historical promenade, Cllr Heasman said: “This proposal is certainly not acceptable in its current form. The area is devoid of car parking spaces as it is, a situation which is only going to get worse with the redevelopment of Union House. I am really not happy and will not be supporting the plans.”
He added it was his hope the issue could be addressed with ‘further debate’ once more information has been disclosed.
The company behind the proposed development is the Abergavenny Estate, which has held a 150-year lease on the Lower Pantiles since 1987, while the council still controls the freehold.
However, the council currently leases back the car park from the estate, allowing it to derive income from the facility.
The proposal favoured by the report will see the council enter a redevelopment agreement with the estate, including a new 250-year sub-lease for the new car park at a peppercorn rent – conditional upon the grant of planning permission.
This will allow for the development of the new building to go ahead, with the council ultimately still retaining the freehold and receiving a ‘cash payment’ from the estate in the process.
Regarding the reduction in parking spaces, the report acknowledges the potential for ‘a significant under-supply’ in future.
But it adds: “The long-term value of new buildings with an improved design outweighs the short-term loss of car parking over 12 to 24 months.”
A second option which will also be considered would involve the council making its own planning application and selling this consent on the open market.