Update - Recommendation to demolish Northminster car park

Update 27 August 2019: Further to the below, Peterborough City Council has published the two structural assessment reports into Northminster multi-storey car park.

Since receiving the results of the structural assessments, the city council has commissioned an internal review to allow it to better understand the maintenance and monitoring regime in recent years. Until we receive the findings of that internal review and have properly considered them we cannot comment further.

Originally published 21 August 2019: A recommendation has been made to close Northminster multi-storey car park permanently and demolish it after a second report from structural engineers confirmed that the building has reached the end of its life.

The recommendation has been made by councillor Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning, commercial strategy and investments.

The car park has been closed to vehicles since Friday 26 July after a report by Rolton Group recommended doing so as possible to reduce the risk to the public. 

At that time the leader of the council, councillor John Holdich, said that a decision would be made on whether to spend a significant amount of money making the necessary repairs to re-open it, or permanently close and demolish it. 

Councillor Holdich asked for a second opinion and commissioned Skanska to carry out a structural assessment.

The recommendations detailed in this report correlate with those of Rolton Group and state that ‘the structure is beyond economic repair, and it is considered highly likely that any further investigations or analysis will only prove that the life of the structure cannot be extended’. It therefore recommends that the car park is decommissioned and demolished. 

As a result, it has been decided that the car park will not re-open and in due course will be demolished and replaced with a surface-level car park.

The city council has confirmed it will work with the owners of the nine retail units on the ground floor of the car park to support them to find alternative retail units and will support a small number of market traders who may need to move temporarily whilst the demolition takes place. In addition, steps are taking place to re-locate the CCTV control room which is based on the roof of the multi-storey car park.

The council has also commissioned Rolton to provide weekly monitoring checks on the car park to monitor further significant deterioration in its condition.

Councillor Holdich said: “This second report has made it absolutely clear that we will need to spend several million pounds to be able to carry out the necessary works to re-open the car park. In doing so, it would not extend the life of the car park beyond 10 to 15 years, because of the inherent weaknesses in the way the car park was constructed.

“Spending this money would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, especially at a time when we are having to look carefully at every area of the council to find ways of saving money and doing things differently, to be able to prioritise essential services because of a growing demand for our services and government funding decreasing. 

“The impact this will have on the shop owners and market traders is regrettable, but we have no alternative but to close the car park. 

“Given the opportunities this site presents in terms of regenerating this quarter of the city, plus its central location and proximity to the railway station, I am confident that there will be interest from the private sector which would bring forward much needed regeneration for this part of the city.”

The 720-space car park on Cattle Market Road was constructed during the late 1970s and it was therefore known to be reaching the end of its expected lifespan.

The report from Skanska confirms the car park was built using the ‘lift slab’ construction technique, which was an innovative and economic method of construction at the time. This form of construction has since been identified to have inherent weaknesses making it susceptible to sudden and unexpected collapse. 

In April the council commissioned Rolton Group to carry out a structural assessment of the car park. A report from the structural engineers on 19 July 2019 concluded that the car park is likely to have now reached the end of its life and to remain open would need significant investment.

The report recommended that there is either significant investment in the car park to allow it to be used into the future, or that it is closed permanently and demolished. Either way, it was recommended that the car park was closed to the public as soon as possible.

It advised that by keeping it free of vehicles and public access the retail units and the public toilets can remain open for a limited period of time.

The report from Skanska had similar findings, however offered an overall recommendation as follows:  “It is considered that the structure is beyond economic repair, and it is considered highly likely that any further investigations or analysis will only prove that the life of the structure cannot be extended. It is therefore recommended that the structure is decommissioned and demolished.”

Councillor Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning, commercial strategy and investments, said: “Our priority is always to keep people safe and we were not prepared to compromise on this, which is why we took the decision last month to close the car park. 

“Given the build method chosen in the 70s, which has since been found to be flawed, we really have no other option but to demolish this car park. The sooner we do it, the sooner we can create a surface level car park and introduce additional parking in this part of the city which is so crucial for the market traders.

“Now a decision has been made we will work with the businesses who operate nearby to make sure, as far as possible, that we can support them into new premises.

“In addition, we are doing all that we can to support the market traders who have been affected by the closure of the car park. We are changing parking tariffs to make it easier for people to park for less time in long stay car parks, allowing traders to use their permits in alternative car parks and making arrangements for alternative toilets to be provided for when the existing facilities are closed.

“We are now in the process of drawing up a detailed action plan to identify the impacts of demolition on traders, shop owners and others and how these can be mitigated. Whilst this is completed we ask for people’s patience and understanding.”

Motorists are also being made aware of alternative car parks, the nearest being Wellington Street which is £4 all day. Others include Dickens Street car park, which is also £4 all day, or the car park on Brook Street. 

The council is also changing parking tariffs to give shoppers parking at Dickens Street and Wellington Street more choice. The one-hour and 24-hour charges will remain the same, but two new tariffs (two hours for £2 and three hours for £3) will be introduced on 1 September which will be cheaper for shoppers who want to stay for longer.

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