Basingstoke Council have launched another tick box survey. This time it’s about the new Town Centre concept plan, which on the surface looks idilic. Lots more cycle paths, more green spaces, more shops, offices and homes. Ecologically and environmentally sound plans. It is good for people to be able to access the town centre safely and healthy for them to cycle or walk. To achieve this, the council plan to sell off the surface car parks within the centre of town and replace the lost parking spaces with a multi-storey car park over Southern Road car park. Again, this sounds very promising, not too many parking spaces lost and benefits to boot.
BUT, let’s look closer at the plan.
The council have to fund this project and it looks like selling off the development rights
The car parks are also known as service yards. They allow delivery lorries and other services to access the businesses in their areas.
The plan is to turn the space above these new buildings into flats and offices. None of these will have parking, nor are there any plans for increased GP surgeries, school places, sewerage and water works or many other basic infrastructures.
Car use is the primary method to get into the town centre.
Can you imagine someone loading up their shopper bike, gathering the kids and making their way back to their home in Manydown on a rainy November evening?
We need car parking that can expand, the idea of a multi-storey car park on Southern Road was within the previous, highly expensive, consultation. We must keep the current surface carparks, they can (if future circumstances dictate) be multi-storied too.
Cars in one form or another, will be with us for the foreseeable future.
The only way the Council can guarantee an improved bus service that will be able to service the town centre, is not to rely on the public sector, but to run its own. That will never happen, so relying on subsidising the private sector is their only tool. This might work well if there were several bus companies competing. There is only one in Basingstoke. It has a virtual monopoly and can demand levels of subsidy that are excessive and restrictive.
Schemes like Community centre run minibus services, empty taxi pick up points, car share that have been promoted by Hampshire Independents could ease the public transport crisis at a fraction of the cost of subsidising underused bus services.
The whole plan for Basingstoke Town Centre looks like a well wrapped up Conservative land grab. Development deals for the donors? With the benefit of increased council tax yields. With no real opposition at local, county or national level, it is up to us, the people to look beyond the glitter and gifts and ask the very serious question “who is making the profit?”
The survey and concept plan can be found here: