Objections over scaled-back plans for new town centre car park

The former St Louis Middle School, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

The former St Louis Catholic Middle School site in Bury St Edmunds - which may become a car park - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Prime town centre land should not be used for a car park, a council has said in response to a planning application.

Bury St Edmunds Town Council has objected to plans by David Harris, of M&D Developments, for parking for 269 cars at the former school site in St Andrew's Street South.

The design for the car park access involves creating a new filter junction off Parkway, a busy dual carriageway road. 

M&D Developments, which purchased the site in October 2019, already has permission for nine homes on the remaining part of the site that are currently being built.

There would be access from the proposed car park to Parkway (pictured)

There would be access from the proposed car park to Parkway (pictured) - Credit: Google

This latest car park application by the developer is for 65 less spaces than its 2020 application to West Suffolk Council. 

M&D Developments believes there is a need for additional car parking in the town, based on available information, not only today, but in the future.

Bury St Edmunds Town Council said it objected "on the grounds of vehicular access, highway safety and disturbance from lighting/light pollution and furthermore considers that, in light of the climate emergency declarations made at national and local level, the use of prime town centre land for car parking is out-of-step with these aspirations".

Julia Wakelam, an Abbeygate councillor on West Suffolk Council

Julia Wakelam, an Abbeygate councillor on West Suffolk Council - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Ward councillor Julia Wakelam also wanted to record her "strong objection" over the plans, for similar reasons.

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She said: "This brownfield site is clearly sustainable, and its use for properly planned housing will help safeguard and improve the environment while ensuring safe and healthy living conditions.

"Granting permission to use it for car parking, on the other hand, is likely to have the opposite effect."

She said it would compromise the security of neighbouring residential properties, it would "do nothing" to enhance the environment, the "greatly increased" number of car movements would generate more air pollution and people using the car park would increase the existing road congestion in the town centre.

She also shared the concerns of residents of Old Convent Orchard about security and that they would be disturbed by car movements at night.

One resident said in their objection: "On the proposed plan, there is no a barrier at the entry/exit point. Without a barrier, there is likely to be joy riding or antisocial behaviour in the car park after dark, disturbing the peace and quiet of a residential area."

The Highways Authority has requested more detail and raised the issue of an increased risk of "tail end shunts" if arriving vehicles are required to wait on the carriageway because of congestion at the entrance.

However, the Bury Society supported the the site access and exit from Parkway to avoid increased traffic on Robert Boby Way and St Andrew's Street South.

David Harris, of M&D Developments

David Harris, of M&D Developments - Credit: Archant

Mr Harris said he was trying to be "forward thinking" by providing additional car parking, which he believes the town needs in light of all the new homes being built in the west Suffolk area.

A design and access statement with the application said: "The proposal to link the new car park directly into this existing Parkway design would appear to provide a rational solution to the need for additional parking."

The plans includes pedestrian access onto Robert Boby Way and a proposed site plan shows CCTV monitors.

A conventional pay-on-exit system would likely be a favoured option with potential for RingGo or similar internet based systems, the design and access statement said.

A total of 33 electric vehicle (EV) pay/charging bays are included, with potential to extend this provision.

The site used to be the home of St Louis Catholic Middle School and later the St Benedict's Catholic Lower School.

Bury St Edmunds Town Councillor Cliff Waterman recently proposed a motion for the town council to be more involved in discussions on parking with West Suffolk, to represent residents' views.