Residents of a Hampshire town allegedly plagued by parking problems have reacted with incredulity to the news that a “secret” rooftop car park has been lying unused above them for five years.
Plonked on a roof above a gym complex in Farnborough, the car park has all the necessary accoutrements: painted bays, disabled spaces, direction arrows.
In fact, there is only one flaw: it can only been reached by foot. So anyone hoping to drop off their Ford Mondeo to do a bit of shopping will need a cunning plan, or a crane.
The existence of the secret, unusable car park above The Gym in Queensmead, Farnborough, emerged on social media this weekend.
And rather than being delighted at the hidden gem, Farnborough residents claim the car-free car park is symptomatic of the “badly managed redevelopment” of their town centre.
The revelation of the car park’s existence – and the confirmation by Rushmoor, the local borough council, that the only access is strictly pedestrian, via either stairs or a lift – has not arrived at an ideal moment.
It comes shortly after the start of redevelopment work on two (known) town-centre car parks which is likely to reduce the number of spaces available for motorists until June.
It also coincides with calls for the council to initiate a consultation to help tackle the problem of heavy demand for parking places around the area where, it now turns out, there has been a car park lying unused for half a decade.
Gareth Lyon, the councillor for the town-centre area, told The Independent: “We have a massive problem with car parking in Farnborough. To have had this huge car park lying empty defies belief. It is ridiculous.”
Gareth Thomas, 25, told gethampshire.co.uk; “It’s a symbol of how badly managed the redevelopment has been.”
There had been such high hopes around the time that construction of the car park was (quietly) completed in 2010.
When the plans for the redevelopment were outlined in 2007, there were promises of a “major, positive transformation” to “help kick-start the revitalisation of the town centre”.
Rushmoor Borough Council was to act as “an enabler, bringing together landowners, potential developers, and other key stakeholders to ensure that the vision for Farnborough is realised”.
Farnborough residents were promised “an exciting future for the town”.
In the 2012 Farnborough Town Centre Prospectus, all talk was of “a clear strategy... a cohesive town centre”.
Under the plans the developer, St Modwen, which bills itself as “the UK’s leading regeneration specialist”, took ownership of 14 acres of the town centre, including what is now the secret car-park site in Queensmead.
Farnborough became one its showcase projects, its publicity material making references to the car-park site while talking of: “Two phases of the £80m regeneration project now complete with Wetherspoons, New Look, The Gym and Starbucks all open.”
Now that the existence of the secret car park has emerged, St Modwen has promised that one day it will be accessible to drivers, in cars, and not just to a few apartment residents taking the lift or walking up stairs to gain access to refuse storage facilities that are also on the rooftop.
It was all part of a phased development plan, a St Modwen spokesman told local media. Eventually motorists would be able to drive along a link bridge from the existing multi-storey in Kingsmead, the next street along.
Although exactly when the secret car park would be accessible to cars was not immediately clear.
“Plans for the adjacent site are still under development,” said the spokesman, “so we can’t speculate on the timescale.”
Andrew Lloyd, Rushmoor Borough Council’s chief executive, also strongly denied all suggestions of mismanaged development.
“We are keen to see the next phase of the development, but we understand [St Modwen’s] decision not to proceed immediately,” he said.
“It was right not to proceed until the retail units of the first phase had been let. It wasn’t desirable to proceed with void properties in the middle of the recession.
“We are pleased the development survived the recession. We are absolutely confident it will bring a major boost to Farnborough. And town-centre car-parking space is not a major issue in Farnborough because we have a lot of it,” he added.Reuse content