The first details of £7m plans to replace one of Horsham town centre’s major multi-storey car parks have been revealed this week.
Piries Place Car Park, which currently has 330 spaces, could be demolished and a new facility built, providing more spaces for the town, which is facing future parking capacity issues.
Horsham District Council is looking to time the opening of a new car park with the completion of the redevelopment of Piries Place, which would see a new hotel, Everyman cinema, and new restaurants constructed.
Depending on the option chosen, the new car park could provide between an extra 113 to 230 new spaces.
The proposals were discussed by HDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday (September 12), and are due to go before Cabinet next Thursday (September 21).
Alan Britten (Con, Roffey North) said: “We have got a golden opportunity to put a footprint down and say this is what we are going to do, we are thinking ahead, we want to grow, and I think the minimum is five floors.”
Officers suggested the preferred option at this stage was five floors, which would be the ground floor plus four.
The cabinet report puts the cost between £6.25m and £7.25m.
Chris Lyons, director for planning, economic development and property, said: “There is a window of opportunity. We need to take it or miss it.”
Committee members signalled support for the demolition of the current car park and a replacement built, with discussion around how large it should be, and whether potential options for its future enlargement would be available.
Dr Lyons described how it was ‘fairly widely accepted’ that the car park was ‘not the best’, while on overall parking capacity in the town centre the council ‘need to do something fairly soon’.
The main issues with Piries Place, which has split levels, are narrow ramps, poor turning circles, a large number of columns, tired appearance, poor lighting, and cul-de-sac zones.
The council sees the new Piries Place development as a ‘destination’, which would bring people into the town for the first time, and Dr Lyons said it would be ‘ideal to have a nice new car park’ next door so they have a ‘positive experience of Horsham’.
David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote) said: “I’m all for building it as high as we can reasonably go and get some future proofing into this.”
Officers described the current flat deck rather than split floor option as the ‘quickest and simplest solution’.
Digging down into the basement had been looked at but was not feasible due to high voltage cables.
Nigel Jupp (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley) asked if they could explore some retail or commercial units on the car park’s ground floor fronting on to the Piries Place piazza.
He also asked if they could explore incorporating any land to the south of the existing car park, and whether the £6m-8m would be borrowed or found from the council reserves.
Officers explained that they were not convinced about expanding the car park into Park Place as this could lead to ‘a lot of issues’.
Michael Willettt (Con, Steyning) asked if they were happy with 2.4 metre wide spaces. Officers suggested larger spaces could be provided on the upper floors.
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