Upton car park to remain closed
A second entrance to an Upton Car Park is to remain closed while long-term plans for the future of the site are explored.
Malvern Hills District Council closed the rear entrance to Hanley Road Car Park in September 2015 on safety grounds. It followed reports of Civil Enforcement Officers and the public almost being hit by speeding motorists using the car park as an unofficial cut-through.
Concerned residents and traders petitioned the council to reconsider the decision in December 2016, claiming it was causing congestion and raising safety concerns about increased traffic on New Street. As a result the council’s insurers Zurich were asked to report on the risks of re-opening the rear entrance, which was received towards the end of last month.
It warns if the council re-opens the entrance without putting any safety measures in place then it would be at severe risk of prosecution if an accident happened. Fines in recent cases involving councils and similar circumstances have ranged between £250,000 and £500,000. Any fine would have to be paid by the council putting its financial stability at risk. Insurers could also refuse to pay out in the event of a claim meaning the council would also have to pay any legal costs incurred or compensation claims.
Steve Thomas, Senior Risk Consultant for Zurich, said the car park entrance was closed for ‘sound, rational, risk based reasons’ and added: ‘A simple decision to re-open ‘as’was’ cannot be supported and is strongly advised against.’
The council has also received separate legal advice which warned officers and councillors would also be at risk of criminal prosecution if they voted to re-open the car park in its current format.
According to Worcestershire County Council the only safe option would be to create a road through the car park with raised footpaths to protect pedestrians. However, it is estimated this would cost at least £500,000 and would limit the car park’s use by HGVs.
As a result of the findings and the costs involved, a decision has been taken to keep the New Street entrance closed indefinitely. However, senior members and officers from Malvern Hills District Council will meet with Upton Town Council later this month to look at future uses for the site which could alter the way it is used.
Cllr David Chambers, Leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said: “It’s very clear simply re-opening the car park entrance ‘as is’ would continue to pose a serious risk to the public and we cannot justify the cost of the safety measures required when a cost-effective solution is already in place.
“However, we are listening to the concerns of residents, traders and Upton district councillors Andrea and Mike Morgan who have campaigned tirelessly on this issue. That’s why we feel a review of potential future uses for the site, and the wider area, through the Neighbourhood Planning process would be more beneficial.
“Upton is very important to us as the gateway to the Malverns. In September we’re hosting national coach and group travel operators and trade magazine writers in the town to showcase all Upton has to offer in the hope of attracting more visitors. We’re keen to do more of this type of activity and are happy to work with partners to discuss further ideas to support the High Street economy.”