A local businessman believes he has a site which would make a significant contribution to solving Wilmslow's parking problems but it is being ignored by Cheshire East Council.
Mike Cooksey approached the Council, firstly in August 2017, with his proposal to build a car park on land to the rear of Heald Court on Hawthorn Lane. The site, which is owned by his company, lies within a conservation area and has been vacant for more than 20 years.
The site is currently available and the car park would provide around 80 long stay spaces for the contract market. The access road has already constructed and Mr Cooksey says the car park could be up and running within 6 months of obtaining planning permission, however, "the Council has shown no enthusiasm to enter into dialogue".
Mike Cooksey told wilmslow.co.uk "Should the option of creating a new deck at Broadway Meadow be followed up it will cost £3 m or more. There are no Cheshire East funds for this option and it still goes little way to resolving the issue. The Hawthorn Lane site is available and would be privately funded.
"I am unaware of the reason for the lack of enthusiasm from Cheshire East as indeed is the Town Council. The site meets all the criteria in terms of position and screening. It cannot be seen from a public vantage spot and its presence will surprise many."
Mr Cooksey believes there is no other potential site in the town that can provide a swift part resolution.
Councillor Martin Watkins, Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council said " It is important that all options be included in this survey, particularly his as, at the moment, it is the only 'quick fix' available for long-term parking in Wilmslow.
"Additionally, it comes at no cost to Cheshire East at Mike would fund it. His site is in a conservation area and the wider debate is do conservation areas have car parks. If we say No, then we need to be clear of the consequences of that decision."
In response to the proposal, Richard Hibbert, Head of Transport at Cheshire East Council said "I confirm that I have visited the site at your request where you outlined the prospective opportunity. At that visit, I believe we both agreed that the development must be considered through the statutory planning process. I anticipate that any application will be brought forward by yourself, through discussion with CEC planning. There should be no expectation that the Council will seek the promote a planning application for the site."
He added "At this stage, the Council's review study has focussed only on car parks under CEC management plus on-street parking provision. Therefore, the consultation would be the appropriate time for you to register the option at Hawthorn Lane. I encourage you to participate in the consultation event and your response will be helpful in finalising the strategy.
" The Council's report on parking will be silent on the option, as to do otherwise could be considered to prejudice any consideration at planning. The same applies to any other options for future parking provision in Wilmslow that are dependent on a change-of-use planning consent. My view is that only when there can be reasonable certainty of delivery can the Council's parking strategy take such options into account."
Richard Hibbert continued "As when we met, my best advice is to engage asap with the pre-application process. This will assist you most in determining the prospects for your concept. As members of my team will be engaged in considering any planning application, it is inappropriate for me to indicate any level of support for the ideas at this time."
Mike Cooksey told wilmslow.co.uk "There is, as is well published, a parking crisis in the town. This will not be resolved until long stay parking is provided. The options are very limited.
"Cheshire East carried out a report recently looking at the options but they did not consider privately owned sites. It was not in Richard Hibbert's mandate as his report states. The Town Council and I asked why as clearly there was limited scope to improve the position within Cheshire East ownership.
"They are now acknowledging they have to widen the scope. However, in purely planning terms the grant of consent would be controversial. Who wants a car park on their door step?
"However, the problem will only deteriorate and an inconvenience to the very few will benefit the whole town and allow it to prosper. It is currently being 'strangled'. Hence, without political support resulting from residents and businesses pressure an application would probably fail and Wilmslow town then retains the status quo.
"Cheshire East can make it happen as they have in Handforth, granting themselves consent for a new village on green belt land. There is a need to raise funds and that was their solution. The councillors wanted it and the planners accommodated."
He added "A planning application is expensive and I have no desire to waste money. If the residents were aware of the sites availability then support would follow."
Please share your views about Mr Cooksey's proposal to build a car park to the rear of Heald Court on Hawthorn Lane, which lies within a conservation area, via the comment box below.