Parking mad

PUBLISHED: 13:41 04 May 2006 | UPDATED: 13:27 04 May 2010

A CONTROVERSIAL plan which would allow drivers to park on cathedral land has been discussed in secret at the district council. The scheme, which would extend the city s Broad Street car park to the bottom of Cherry Hill Park, caused uproar when it was con

A CONTROVERSIAL plan which would allow drivers to park on cathedral land has been discussed in secret at the district council.

The scheme, which would extend the city's Broad Street car park to the bottom of Cherry Hill Park, caused uproar when it was considered behind closed doors.

Objectors complained that tourists sitting on park benches enjoying the cathedral views would be disturbed by cars reversing behind them.

And they feared it was only the tip of the iceberg and would lead to more green space being lost, as the battle to solve Ely's parking problems intensifies.

The idea, which had been put informally to the cathedral dean and chapter, was thrown out by just one vote at East Cambridgeshire District Council's Environment and Transport Committee.

But, because it was such a contentious issue, it has been called back for further discussion and will rear its head again on the agenda of the council's overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday.

The call was made by councillors John Humphreys and Colin McLean, who want to see the issue put before full council after Ely traders have been consulted.

Cathedral dignitaries, however, who were prepared to discuss the idea, have been told in an official letter that the council was not pursuing the project.

Cathedral bursar, Stephen Wikner, said: "We were approached informally by representatives of the council to see what our attitude would be. They made us a proposal for use of the land but it was then turned down. It was a dead issue as far as we were concerned.

"We felt that it would not have got in the way of any views of the cathedral and was not a sensitive thing to do. But we were told formally that they did not want to proceed any further."

The scheme would provide an extra 59 spaces by extending the car park southward from the top rows.

It was expected that the lease would not be renewed on Cresswells Lane Car Park, freeing up cash for the running of the new parking area.

But Cllr Ian Allen, Liberal Democrat member on the environment and transport committee, said: "This is just an easy hit and I am damned if I am going to see them nibbling away at the park and our green spaces for parking. If we wrote to Prince Charles with something like this he would think we were all bonkers! If you are sitting looking at the cathedral you don't want cars in your peripheral vision.

"I don't think it is a sustainable policy building car parks in the centre of Ely when the population is increasing faster than we can build them. We need buses travelling round the city to keep out the cars.

"If you lose the Cresswells Lane car park and go with this proposal it means gaining less than 20 new spaces. If we are short of short-term parking in Ely then we should withdraw the long-stay spaces at Broad Street and people will have to use Cresswells. But we are relinquishing car parking on the edge of the city and moving cars into the middle."

Environment and transport committee chairman, Conservative Cllr Brian Ashton, said: "Whilst this matter was discussed in closed committee because of the commercially sensitive nature of the information, the published agenda clearly indicated that the proposal was about an extension to the Broad Street car park.

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