Plans to reconfigure a Horsham town centre park to provide more spaces has been branded a ‘waste of public money’ by one Tory councillor.
Horsham District Council is proposing to spend £200,000 changing the layout of the Hurst Road Car Park next to the Pavilions in the Park Leisure Centre and introducing entry and exit barriers to facilitate the ticketless automatic number plate recognition system.
The extra 37 spaces and two additional disabled spaces would be created by removing an existing grassed and planted area in the south-eastern corner, and in place of the central landscaped area.
Instead a much narrower pedestrian footpath with cars parked on either side is planned.
HDC’s Planning Committee North deferred the application after members raised concerns about a lack of consultation and pedestrian safety last Tuesday (August 1).
Ruth Fletcher, from the Horsham District Cycle Forum, suggested the new layout was car first with no prior consultation, adding: “It squeezes in extra parking spaces so there’s nothing for cyclists.”
She called for a new ‘forward-looking plan’ for the car park, which aimed to encourage walking and cycling to and from the leisure centre.
Fellow objector Philip Ayerst pointed out that pedestrians were losing a wide boulevard in the centre of the car park and would instead have to use a ‘narrow twisty path between car bonnets interspersed with lamp posts’.
He added: “It’s not sensible, it’s dangerous, and it’s putting cars before pedestrians.”
Officers argued that the proposals had been improved as a direct result of statutory consultation on the application, but it ‘has not been possible to resolve all the concerns’.
John Chidlow (Con, Southwater) said he would like to see improved cycle access to the Pavilions leisure centre adding: “An extra 37 spaces is going to make absolutely no difference to the parking situation in Horsham at all.
“I personally like that car park the way it is so I’m afraid I cannot support the officers’ recommendation.
“I support their rationale for it but I do not see the need to change and I think this is a waste of public money and the car park in the Pavilions should stay as it is.”
Earlier this year the council confirmed the budget for the project was £200,000.
Officers explained that the car park would have a separate entrance and exit for bicycles and cars, but cyclists would use the roadways rather than the footways.
They told the committee that both the existing and proposed path were not formal cycling paths and were intended for pedestrian use only.
Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate), chairman of the committee, asked if they should defer the application given the ‘unease’ felt by councillors.
She added: “I do not think it would do any harm to defer it to another meeting.”