Council parking U-turn
CONSERVA-TIVES staged a dramatic climb-down yesterday (Wednesday) pulling the plug on controversial plans to build a car park on cathedral land. The decision to admit defeat over the project came after weeks of angry opposition from residents, conservatio
CONSERVATIVES staged a dramatic climb-down yesterday (Wednesday) pulling the plug on controversial plans to build a car park on cathedral land.
The decision to admit defeat over the project came after weeks of angry opposition from residents, conservationists and Liberal Democrat councillors.
It follows a letter from English Heritage, which expressed concerns about the plan, fearing its impact on the historic character of the city and the cathedral.
Conservative leader, Cllr Brian Ashton, said: "Over the past few weeks it has become clear that many correspondents to the local and national press have expressed very strong opinions stating that an extension to Broad Street car park is simply wrong.
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"I doubt whether further consultation could provide any information that would cause anyone to fundamentally change their mind. Perhaps now is the time to 'draw the stumps' and not continue to use the time and energy of the council on this issue. Withdrawing the proposal now is sensible."
The project, to bring 59 extra spaces to the city centre by extending the Broad Street car park into the deanery garden, caused uproar when it was initially discussed in a behind-closed-doors secret meeting at the council.
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Angry letters of objection flooded in to this newspaper. An Ely Standard poll - and one launched by the newly-formed Ely Conservation Society - registered more than 90 per cent of votes against the plan.
The Conservatives insisted that their survey of 590 people showed that 78 per cent approved the plan as being "both practical and modest in scale".
Traders and shopkeepers also gave the idea their backing, believing it would bring more much-needed business into the city centre.
Cllr Ashton added: "The proposal had the support of many users but we could not find the means to achieve it and we have to stop banging our heads against a brick wall.
"We will continue to bring forward ideas to see if it is possible to achieve a sensible solution to the problems for parking and access to Ely."
Councillors had planned a public consultation on the project but decided to put it on hold to canvas the view of national conservation group, English Heritage.
Following a site visit, the charity's inspector of historic buildings, David Eve, told East Cambridgeshire District Council: "Taken as a whole, this area is important in separating the city from the cathedral area and as such has a role in the established historic character of both. While the area in question has seen some development already, the extension of the car park would have an impact on the historic environment, both in terms of appearance and archaeological deposits."
Members of the council's environment and transport committee had called a special meeting for tomorrow (Friday) to discuss the charity's response.
But Cllr Ashton announced his group's decision to abandon the plan in a letter to committee chairman, Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Allen.
Cllr. Allen said: "I am extremely pleased that Cllr Ashton and his group have recognised public opinion on this proposal and that it is not the way forward for the city.
"Common sense has prevailed and we have come to the right decision in the end, which is all that matters. Now we must concentrate on the plans for the multi-storey car park.