White elephant park and ride ‘needs experts’

quiet: The empty park and ride at Bluebell Way which cost �2.5m but has been largely unused
quiet: The empty park and ride at Bluebell Way which cost �2.5m but has been largely unused
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Council chiefs stumped by what to do with a £2.5m white elephant car park have called in consultants.

The 548-space car park, close to junction 31a of the M6, was supposed to cut parking problems and congestion in Fulwood when it opened in 2009, but motorists blamed the price and infrequency of its buses serving the facility for its failure.

Bosses left scratching their heads about its future have asked experts at the Eric Wright Group, which specialises in estate and property management, to suggest other uses.

One local businessman claims he had a lukewarm response when he asked if dozens of staff could rent parking spaces there in the meantime, while opposition councillors reckon it should be sold off altogether.

Eddie Sutton, assistant chief executive at Lancashire County Council, said: “The former park and ride site has been identified as one of the priorities to discuss with our new regeneration property partner – the Eric Wright Group. We will look to use their expertise in developing plans for the site.

“Our regeneration partnership aims to reduce the council’s running costs and give a new lease of life to property and buildings that are no longer needed by the council. The aim is to boost economic activity in the county by making more efficient use of council property and the best possible use of surplus property.”

A council spokesman added it was too early to say whether the site would be sold off or not.

One Fulwood businessman told the Evening Post he had recently approached the council to ask if his workers could rent spaces at the car park but claims he received little response to the proposal. The boss, who asked not to be named, said around 100 of his employees, plus other nearby firms, were desperate for off-road parking due to a dire shortage in the North Preston Employment Area.

He said: “Parking is very tight in this area. We would take 100 spaces off them straight away but when we rang the council, they told us they were going to get consultants in to tell them what best to do with it. It seems crazy when the demand is there for parking. They would just have to run a bus down to the employment area.”

Preston West Coun Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at LCC, said the council should get rid of the park and ride if it was not needed, or at least rent out spaces while they decided its fate.

He said: “It has been sitting there for ages and goes back to the previous (Labour) administration. It was not adequately planned, with no proper bus service, and they seem to have sat on it ever since.

“They should get on with it and get shot of it, or at least get rental income (from parking) in the meantime.”

The Evening Post revealed two years ago that the empty car park was then costing LCC almost £30,000 a year to keep running before it closed its gates in 2010.

The council was criticised for not doing enough to promote the park and ride when it opened and for not setting up a dedicated or discounted bus service. Suggestions were previously put forward that the facility could be used by hospital workers or football fans travelling to Preston North End.

Hugh Evans, of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Congestion and parking are both major problems across the North Preston Employment Area. One way to help alleviate both issues is to open up the redundant Park and Ride site for parking even it’s only for a trial period. The Council could generate some much needed revenue and help solve the traffic problems in one of our city’s most prestigious employment sites”.