Next week a planning committee will decide whether to allow the owners of the Oastler Road car park to legally use the site as a car park.
The car park hit the headlines numerous times last year after scores of people complained over what they called unfair parking fines.
The land off Bingley Road and behind the Co-Op had been run by Bradford Council since 2004, and motorists were given 20 minutes of free parking. But early last year the lease was taken over by Birmingham-based Smart Parking on behalf of Saltaire Investments. They kept the free 20 minutes, but required motorists to log their car’s registration for the free period. Many failed to do so, and were hit with fines of £100.
After investigations by Bradford Council it emerged that the land had never actually been given permission to be used as a car park – it was classed as a public highway. The car park use was declared unlawful, and people have been able to park for free ever since.
An application to change of use of the entire area of land from public highway to car park was refused earlier this year, with planning officers saying a public highway was needed for vehicles to make deliveries to the shops on Bingley Road and that the plans “showed a lack of consideration of its multi-purpose function as a thoroughfare and delivery access.”
A new application was submitted earlier this summer. This one once again called for the land to be changed to a car park. However, it also leaves space for vehicles to pass through the site – meaning it can still be used as a public highway.
The new application will be decided by Bradford Council’s Keighley and Shipley Area Committee next Wednesday. Although almost 90 objections to these plans have been received, the application has been recommended for approval by planning officers.
In their report, the officers say the area in question has been used for parking for years, without causing any highways issues. It says: “It must be noted that this car parking will continue to provide an important facility to support the Coop and the other shops and businesses in the Saltaire Local Centre. The need to retain car parking facilities seems to be recognised by the objectors, but the issue for them is how it will be run.”
It points out that people have raised concerns that the controversial fines may return if the plans are approved, but adds: “Whilst the points raised by objectors are understood, fears about whatever management and ticketing regime might be re-introduced in the future cannot be given weight in the consideration of a change of use application.”
Shipley MP Philip Davies had raised concerns about the car park fines in the past. On this new application, he said: “I don’t have any objection to it being used as a car park. In fact I think it is essential for the shops there. I just hope that any rules for the car park are clearly displayed many weeks before charges are bought into play so we don’t see the level of fines we saw last time.”