Health centre need outweighs Stansted car park concerns, say cabinet

THE long-awaited need for a health centre has taken precedence over a concern about the lack of spaces in a Stansted Mountfitchet car park.

Developer Pelham Structures was seeking an agreement from Uttlesford District Council to use some of the 109-space Lower Street car park to meet the needs of a redevelopment project for a health centre, flats and retail space on the old Castle Lotus site.

But councillors representing the village urged the cabinet to withold the agreement until assurances could be given that there was sufficient capacity for general use.

Stansted South district councillor Alan Dean said there had been no background studies done and no evidence to suggest the revised car park proposal would be able to withstand the impact of the new development.

“This is an unsatisfactory cabinet report with no evidence in it.

“The key to this issue is the service this council provides to the public and users in Stansted.

“It is not a debate about planning but a debate about services the council provides and whether it continues to do so.

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“There is nothing in the report apart from unsubstantiated statements about there being plenty of spaces – and that undermines it because it is based on hearsay and anecdote.”

Speaking on behalf of Stansted Mountfitchet Parish Council, Cllr Catherine Dean, said members wanted to see a “proper application” with enough spaces and a guarantee that, in the event of a shortfall, the issue would be addressed within a year of the development opening.

But Stansted resident Ray Woodcock, who has been an avid campaigner of the health centre, pleaded with the cabinet not to hold up the application any longer.

“This issue has been going on since 1970 and we are so close to getting it now with Pelham Structures.

“But we may also be close to losing it if more barriers are put in the way time and time again,” he said.

Under the proposal, Pelham Structures is planning to remodel the car park to provide extra spaces for the use of the health centre during the working week and for the occupants of the 14 flats.

Between 64 and 85 spaces have been earmarked for the developer and the 20-year agreement would give the council at least another £22,400 a year after the initial two years.

Director of the firm Bill Bampton made it clear the West Essex Primary Care Trust believed 50 spaces would be needed for visitors to the health centre.

But he said Pelham Structures did not think this many would be needed.

“We think after it has been running for a while it will not need that number and, if it doesn’t, we would then have the option to give up those spaces to be used elsewhere.”

Cabinet member for community partnerships and engagement, Cllr Howard Rolfe, said the need for a health centre outweighed the concerns about car parking because of changes to the NHS.

The West Essex Primary Care Trust is due to be replaced by Care Commissioning Groups from the beginning of April.

He told members: “We must have this health centre.

“If we fiddle, we might lose it. There is no overwhelming reason against it.”

Fellow cabinet member Cllr Susan Barker, also a member of the North Essex Parking Partnership, said the partnership would be monitoring the usage of the car park, adding that “most of the time the car park has many spaces in it”.

Members voted to approve the car parking agreement with Pelham Structures.