Plan to convert former police station into flats is given green light amid parking row
Developer Rushbond was granted permission to convert the former Wood Street Police Station into 33 flats.
The scheme also includes building a further 29 townhouses on council-owned car parks ar Rishworth Street and Gills Yard.
Wakefield Council’s planning and highways committee approved the application which is part of plans to transform the city’s ‘Civic Quarter’.
But some committee members said that losing more public car parking could threaten the ‘economic vitality’ of the city centre.
David Pickersgill, councillor for Wakefield North, said the two car parks each provided between 50 and 60 car parking spaces, which were well used by the public.
He said: “As a ward member I’m broadly happy with the Wood Street and Gills Yard part of the proposal.
“But I am really concerned about Rishworth Street.
“We need a mix of parking in that part of the city centre.
“To do Rishworth Street at the same time is too much, too quickly.
“We all want people to use public transport. But people don’t have any confidence in public transport at the moment.”
Coun Pickergill continued: “I think we need a proper parking strategy for what is happening.
“There have been dozens of office buildings in the city centre that have been converted to apartments with minimal or no parking.
“We are storing up a problem which is accumulating across the city.”
Kevin Swift, councillor for Wakefield West, said: “If the loss of car parking on this site could be balanced by an increase somewhere else, then all well and good.
“But it is not clear that that is the situation.
“This side of town has actually lost car parking hand over fist.”
Coun Swift referred to the loss of the multi-storey car park which had previously been on the Rishworth Street site, as well as the loss of another multi-storey on Borough Road.
Free parking was introduced at Wakefield Council car parks during the covid pandemic in order to boost the local economy.
Two hours’ free parking is currently available at many council-run car parks across the district.
He added: “We are taking about a big loss.
“At the same time, the importance of car parking to the economic vitality of the city is demonstrated by the way we took deliberate action to make car parking more attractive in the last couple of years.”
“Car parking is the key issue in this application.”
A highways officer said alternative city centre parking was available at other sites including Merchants Gate, Ings Road, Smyth Street, George Street plus The Ridings and Trinity shopping centres.
The officer said a district-wide car parking survey is currently being carried out to assess parking requirements post pandemic.
He added: “It is the case that the city masterplan refers to a low traffic city centre and this does require removing parking provision.”