Parking scare call for talks could threaten Smethwick’s huge development
But it risks being torpedoed by Sandwell Council planning officers, who fear the 10-story, 1,323-space parking lot will encourage people to use their cars at a time when authorities are promoting sustainable use of transport.
A lengthy debate took place at a planning committee meeting on May 11, and it was decided to postpone the decision to allow developer Metropolitan Holdings to start discussions with planners on whether the reduction parking would still allow the overall project to unfold.
The advisers and officers said they welcome the large investment in the region and support the principle of development.
Representatives of the developer said the parking lot should serve apartments and commercial properties as well as provide much needed spaces for the hospital.
Planning consultant and agent Rob Wells said the parking spaces offered at the hospital have been reduced since permission was granted in 2015.
He added that a transport assessment found a high number of planned car trips, which would lead to a shortage of 925 places once the hospital is completed.
But officers said a new assessment showed there would be less car trips and they were happy with the provision in the hospital’s schedule.
They also said allowing a huge multi-story facility in the new program would go against their policy of encouraging people to use public transport, biking or walking.
The NHS Trust initially said Metropolitan Holdings’ plan complements theirs, but then submitted a belated objection saying it would in fact hamper sustainable transport policies.
Mr Wells said: “The nomination is for a major regeneration project in one of your defined regeneration corridors.
“It will offer many advantages, including major investments in the borough and no less than 201 new homes, including affordable homes.
“Going to the hospital can be stressful and members probably know how much of a problem parking in hospitals can be.
“People don’t choose to go to the hospital because they want to, it’s a necessity and therefore the fastest and easiest choice of transportation is mostly the default option.
“Especially when the hospital is a large sub-regional facility where many will not be able to easily connect by train, bus or on foot.
“The application will help avoid problems from the start and will promote wider regeneration of the area.
“It brings an investment of £ 80million to the Borough and provides 350 jobs during construction, affordable housing and high quality workspace.”
Committee member Bob Piper said he was “in conflict” over the plan and supported calls to postpone the case.
He said: “I accept the important aspects of regeneration that this would bring to a much needed area and it is a substantial development.
“I am convinced by these arguments. I am also concerned that there is not adequate parking at the hospital.
“Having said that, I also accept the green arguments about driving more people in cars and being asked to reduce our carbon footprint.
“In light of all this, we should consider asking both the requester and the officers to take a final look at this issue and postpone it.”
Ismail Ahmad, chief executive of Metropolitan Holdings, said they were willing to reduce parking spaces provided it was economically viable for them to continue.