Will new homes, couple with Crossrail, increase the number of cars clogging residential roads?
Building more offices and flats in the town centre without enough parking spaces is a recipe for gridlock, chaos and a huge extra expense for the taxpayer.
That is the view of the team which drew up the Maidenhead and Cox Green Neighbourhood Plan (MNP), a document designed to complement the Borough Local Plan (BLP).
While the BLP itself contains no parking strategy, the council has published a draft parking policy, which has been branded woefully inadequate for addressing what the MNP team believes is an 8,535 shortfall in parking spaces, based on the number of new homes and offices planned for the town.
Car ownership in Maidenhead is 1.4 cars per household, well above the national average. And while Crossrail will improve east-west rail connections, the lack of reliable, frequent and affordable public transport for most other journeys means the car will continue to be the primary mode of transport.
The MNP team says a realistic level of car ownership for new developments should be seen as two spaces per home, rising with the number of bedrooms. Anything less will mean more cars clogging residential roads.
New offices, they say, need to provide one parking space for every 20 sq metres of office space. But the MNP feels the parking strategy does not enforce a minimum number of parking spaces for each development.
The council’s parking strategy states there should be 1.5 spaces for each new home.
However, to make a development commercially viable for the developer it is proposed 0.7 parking spaces per home would be acceptable.
The MNP strongly disagrees. A spokesman said: “Even in the town centre – with most services within walking distance and a good range of public transport options – the existing average vehicle availability is 0.9 per home.
“Crossrail commuters living in the town centre will surely want a car for evenings and weekends.
“Plans for a possible 2,500 homes in the town centre must provide a realistic ratio of off-road parking spaces or chaos will ensue and residents should be provided with allocated spaces to avoid friction between neighbours.
“If developers are allowed to under-provide, then the council would be forced to make available more public car parking, at council taxpayers’ expense.”
The MNP spokesman continued: “A developer’s ‘viability calculation’ has a built-in profit margin for each development.
“If misused, it can have the effect of passing the cost of supplying the necessary parking spaces on to the council tax payer.
“If the provision of car parking makes the development of the site unviable, it can only mean the land is overpriced, not that sufficient car parking space isn’t needed.”
The MNP team says the debate over car parking spaces for offices is equally difficult to understand.
The council has recently had to step in and lease a significant number of spaces in the town’s multi-storey car parks to new firms to ensure they move in.
“New commercial developments should provide a minimum of five spaces per 100 sq metre – but even this does not reflect the potential number of employees per in that space,” said the MNP spokesman.
“Given the projected office space planned for Maidenhead is in the region of 104,112 sq metres, this amounts to a requirement of 5,700 car parking spaces.”
He continued: “Many rail commuters need to park within walking distance of the railway station.
“For office workers coming into Maidenhead by car, provision of parking spaces near their place of work is also required.
“This is urban planning at its worst!
“We know people commute by car – and we know they will have to park.
“Therefore, adding more offices and more apartments without adequate parking is a recipe for gridlock and enormous extra costs.”
The MNP team says parking spaces in a new development cost about £10,000 per ground level space, £20,000 each in a multi-storey and £30,000 per underground space.
“The regeneration plan from the figures we have available is short of some 8,535 car parking spaces, even ignoring the likely 30 per cent more rail commuters attracted by Crossrail,” said the spokesman.
“This translates into a bill of at least £170m, possibly rising to £256m if underground parking is provided.
“Ensuring the council gets the right deal on redevelopment means car parking must be ade-quate and provided by the developers and not left to be solved later at a cost to the council tax payer.”
How the plans all fit together
The Maidenhead & Cox Green Neighbourhood Plan, once finalised and adopted, will sit between the Area Action Plan for the town centre and the emerging RBWM-wide Borough Local Plan.
It will have equal weight in planning decisions (and appeals).
Having a Neighbourhood Plan in place for Maidenhead is important, because of the major expansion being proposed for the town – nearly 10,000 new homes: about a 45 per cent increase – until 2033.
Additional planning policies, tailored specifically for Maidenhead, will influence planning decisions for years to come and will help shape the way the town evolves.
Many readers will be familiar with the work of the group, which held a public display of its plans at the Friends of Maidenhead unit in the Nicholsons Centre last year.
Next steps for the local plan
The Borough Local Plan is a blueprint for development until 2033, allocating sites for housing, business and leisure development.
The final version of the local plan is being drawn up following the consultation over Christmas. This final plan version will then go out for a further six-week consultation.
But crucially, this will only be about the legal and technical soundness of the plan – not what’s actually in it. It will then be submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the summer for approval. This will be followed by an ‘examination in public’ later in the year, after which the plan will be adopted.
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Police officers can be seen at Ten Pin Bowling in Maidenhead tonight following an incident earlier today.