CITY councillors have today unanimously approved a second application for a controversial multi-storey car park on the edge of the city.

The planning committee this afternoon backed the city council's own scheme for a 287-space car park at the Vaultex site off Barfield Close, Bar End.

The car park is currently being built after receiving planning permission in April, sparking opponents' taking the battle to a judicial review at the High Court in London with a hearing due next month.


The Vaultex construction site this month

The Vaultex construction site this month


Local people have again mounted a concerted campaign saying the three-storey structure would create light and noise pollution close to homes on Domum Road and impact on wildlife, including bats.

Dr Michael Heard, of Domum Road, told the committee that approval would destroy public faith in the planning system and called for the plan to be 'called in' by Government ministers.

The decision had been due last month but was postponed because of a large number of late representations. There have been more than 100 objections.

Patrick Davies, a former member of the planning committee, raised the question of the city council giving itself permission.

"In this case despite the legal challenge and this new application the building work continues without interruption. When I visited immediately before the aborted September Committee date I was told it would be finished by Christmas! Looking at the site this week the work has proceeded rapidly, despite this committee’s crocodile tears about other developers proceeding before the grant of a valid permission.

"The city council has failed to discuss and justify this re-submitted proposal in an open and transparent manner in public. At no point has this new application appeared on the agenda for the Council's Cabinet which is promoting this revised scheme. There is total silence on the inducement from the enormous sum of public money promised by the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (£5 million) if the scheme is completed in this financial year, the largest project so funded in the whole LEP area."

Andrew Fraser-Urquhart QC, counsel for the council, said the car park was being built with a valid permission. Should the High Court quash the first permission this second plan would allow the structure to be completed, he said.

The committee heard that the second plan had seen a reduction in the number of parking spaces from 300 to 287 and the building moved away from the boundary which overlooks Domum Road. The nearest house is 15 metres away.


The view from the Itchen Bavigation showing houses on Domum Road. The Vaultex site is behind the trees under the crane. Photo: WCC

The view from the Itchen Navigation showing houses on Domum Road. The Vaultex site is behind the trees under the crane. Photo: WCC


Simon Avery, planning officer, said a package of mitigation measures had been included, including a green wall and hedge planting.

Cllr Martin Tod, Cabinet member for economic recovery, said the new car park was a key part of the Winchester Movement Strategy that will guide how Winchester evolves over the next 20-30 years. He said it would help reduce traffic in the city centre and create opportunity for improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

Andy Hickman, city council head of programme, said 12 of the spaces at the car park would be reserved for residents of Bar End Road who have no off-road parking.

Local city councillor Charles Radcliffe said: "There’s no doubt this car park is unpopular with local residents – especially those living along Domum Road. They’re unhappy with the scale and height of the building and its positioning towards the back of the site, close to a residential street. They’re unhappy about the way the council has presented its case, and continue to question much of the data used to support it.  

"There’s a maddening sense that the Council is determined to push ahead regardless of what anyone has to say – and is now operating under pressure to complete construction by a fixed deadline to qualify for external funding for the project."

Cllr Brian Laming called for the new car park to be closed between 10pm and 7am but his amendment was defeated, two votes to seven. Car park managers would address any night-time issues if they occurred, the meeting was told.

In debate, Cllr Jane Rutter said the site had had industrial and commercial uses for decades and was not a green site. She said the greatest visual impact for people walking on the River Itchen was the houses on Domum Road not the car park.

She added: "People have asked for us to close city centre parks before we build this, which is ridiculous. It will enable us to close car parks in the city centre."

Cllr Rutter stressed that the planning committee was totally independent and impartial and that the application had been thoroughly assessed by the planning officers.

"I'm convinced it will no impact on local residents or wildlife. Everything has been done to conceal the building and mitigate any lighting and any noise. I doubt neighbours will notice it is there. There are no planning reasons to refuse this application."

Cllr Patrick Cunningham pointed out that at 10m in height the new car park would be lower than Coventry House, a cash store, that was up to 13m tall (photo below).

The application was approved unanimously by the committee comprising both Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors.


Coventry House, cash store, that previously stood on the Vaultex site, of Barfield Close. Photo: WCC

Coventry House, cash store, that previously stood on the Vaultex site, of Barfield Close. Photo: WCC


READ BACKGROUND HERE: First Vaultex site multi-storey car park plan approved

Construction of multi-storey proceeds apace