Dear Editor

Cirencester’s proposed multi-storey car park is, if you will excuse the irresistible pun, wrong on very many levels. To understand this, I have put some of the objections into alphabetical order.

A - Architecture – another correspondent suggested that it might be designed in an attractive, perhaps Georgian style. I note that the published drawing of the side consists of four vertical lines and six horizontal lines. I think it is reasonable to feel that the committee of the Stirling Prize for architecture are not going to have to divert to Cirencester in the near future.

B - Bicycles – how many bike racks are there in Cirencester? I haven’t counted personally, but I doubt that there are more than two dozen. How can you even begin to develop multi-million pound parking infrastructure before exhausting simpler options like encouraging sustainable transport?

C – Carbon dioxide (although C might relate to pollution by concrete, or congestion). Building a car park at the end of a cul-de-sac is likely to lead to traffic jams. These cause idling engines, which produce CO2 in a confined area. There is limited ability to plant trees to help absorb the CO2 and other pollutants. The world has quite enough CO2 to be going on with, thank you very much, and we really don’t need strategies to increase its production without benefit.

D – How does this make the town more accessible for disabled, or elderly, or other vulnerable members of the population?

E – Evidence, or, perhaps, lack of evidence. I was astonished to find out that part of the evidence for building this car park was a study which was nearly 20 years old and, er, didn’t mention multi-storey car parks. That is a significant flaw in the evidence base. The study looked in part at the pollution produced by public transport, at a time when buses were vehicles that typically produced large amounts of diesel exhaust. They are now very much cleaner, and can be electric or hydrogen powered.

F – Face saving. Planners have proposed a course of action which has so many flaws that they can be listed alphabetically. There needs to be a solution which can allow them to back down with dignity. Perhaps a discovery of rare orchids on the proposed site would work?

G – Growth – of the population, or of employment in the town. If the multi-storey car park is built, and businesses bring in another 300-400 employees, or new houses bring in a few thousand new residents, how much better will parking be in Cirencester? Do we even know how much additional demand is being hidden because parking is already so difficult? It has never been suggested that there is no problem with parking in Cirencester, but will a Multi-Storey car park even begin to address it?

H - Hat – This can be eaten if the Waterloo site does not contain Roman archaeology. Whether or not it ultimately interferes, or should interfere, with the building is a completely different matter.

I - Imagination – Has enough imagination been used to look for alternative solutions to Cirencester’s parking problems? I can suggest encouraging car sharing, and use of parking apps like JustPark to move cars off the streets. Other people have suggested driving to out of town locations and sharing cars from there. Lord Bathurst has suggested parking at the Old Kennels. What other options might exist?

J - Journalism – The Standard has been very fair in publishing letters, but I can’t help wondering if CDC would have continued with these plans if they had been subjected to rigorous, critical analysis at an earlier stage -as might have happened in the halcyon days of local journalism.

M – Money - Very roughly, I think that each additional car parking space will cost approximately £15000 to build. That seems a lot if there are alternatives to be explored. At the very least, I don’t think anyone should be expecting free car parking in the foreseeable future. If so much money is to be spent on one project, surely the benefits should be very clear?

N – Narrow, no through roads. Who, in their right minds, would ever suggest building 500 spaces at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac? Traffic at that side of town is already fraught, backing up onto London Road and the roundabout. I can envisage gridlock daily on Lewis Lane, Dyer Street, and Victoria Road.

P – Particulate pollution is associated with increased rates of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. Interestingly, responsibility for public health has been devolved to Local Authorities.

Q – Quality of life – We should be building towns that make life better for people living and working in them. A multi-storey car park might do that if it meant that everyone who wanted a parking place in Cirencester could find one easily and quickly. However, if it means that roads are busier, pollution greater, car parks are still full, and the elderly and disabled are no more able to move around with ease, then it has not been achieved.

R - Ride sharing – is there no encouragement for people to share cars coming into Cirencester?

S - Self driving cars – Cars are in use about 3% of their time – they are parked about 97% of the time. If the technology offered you the opportunity to summon a safe vehicle to your door as and when you wanted, and for less money, would you really tie up hundreds or thousands of pounds of your hard earned money in a lump of metal? See W – White Elephant.

T – Taxation – How would you persuade people to use a car park which was less convenient than they are used to? Well, making company spaces a taxable benefit is one option. Charging companies for the car parking spaces that they offer is another. Nottingham has an apparently successful workplace parking levy which is used to fund public transport. I personally favour carrots to sticks, and would like to see alternatives that are better than the current mad dash to find a free place to leave your vehicle.

U – Undeclared conflicts of interest. One of the correspondents who wrote in support of a multi-storey car park has a significant interest in The Woolmarket. His views are entirely valid, and, while I disagree with them, he is right to express them, although with a clear declaration of interest.

W - White elephant. As explained elsewhere, the times they are a-changing. Cars aren’t going to be the same, and use of fossil fuels is decreasing. We are so used to a society structured around cars, that it is difficult to imagine anything else. However, major car and technology companies are investing billions to make it happen.

Y - Yesterday’s solution to today’s problems – It is perfectly possible that Cirencester should have built a multi-storey car park 25 years ago. But it didn’t, and times have changed. Just because it wasn’t built before, does not mean that it should be built now.

Z – The end. I moved to Cirencester in 1985 and my life has been centred on Cirencester since then. Now it is time for me to move on, and I do not intend to make any further contributions to this debate. So, farewell Cirencester – I will always love you!

Chris Goldie