Published: 06:00, 17 February 2020
A frustrated pensioner says a new multi-storey car park opposite her home has left her feeling like she's "living in a prison".
Carole Zepler has branded the controversial facility "the ugliest building in Canterbury" and fears it has wiped thousands off house prices in Station Road West.
She hit out as it was revealed the facility - which is clad in wooden panels - will open on April 1.
“It’s a nightmare and I just don’t understand how any sane council has allowed this to happen, defying the rules of the conservation area,” she said.
The retired administration worker, who helped run Canterbury in Bloom for many years, says she cannot escape the structure, which now dominates the skyline in front of the four-storey Victorian terrace she has called home for 33 years.
“With all those wooden bars, I now feel like I’m in a prison,” she said.
“I know it was a car park before but at least I could see the sky.
“It’s totally inappropriate in the setting of St Dunstan’s village, whose character is now badly damaged.
“I’m certain it has wiped thousands of pounds off the value of our homes.
“A neighbour had his on the market but gave up when they started building and now rents it out to tenants.”
The city council faced overwhelming opposition when it revealed plans to build on the existing car park to increase capacity to 380 spaces over three levels.
Many argued it would bring more cars into the city and increase pollution. Others claimed the huge cost could not be justified, adding that the building was “completely out of character” for the area.
But the council voted it through, saying it was vital to meet the future demands of high speed rail commuters.
Council spokesman Rob Davies says feedback suggests the structure looks less imposing than the artist’s impressions.
“We have also kept the trees on Station Road West to screen the car park, and planting of the living wall on the station side of the building will take place next month,” he added.
“We know it divides opinion, but this is a vital piece of transport infrastructure for the city for many years to come.
“The construction phase was completed last week, three weeks ahead of schedule.
"We are now doing the highway work and fitting out the equipment, including electric vehicle charging points - initially for 20 vehicles - and the ANPR technology."
A leading city estate agent is less pessimistic about house prices being driven down by the new multi-storey car park.
Charles Bainbridge says his instinct is that the towering structure will have little effect on values of the homes opposite.
“I appreciate they had a bit more of a view and sky before but it was still as car park, not the cathedral or Stour Valley,” he said.
“But I can understand why someone would be unhappy about it if they lived opposite because there will be more traffic movement as well.”
Mr Bainbridge said that while he did not consider values would be significantly affected, he admitted it might swing a decision about whether to buy or not.
He added: “Many of the homes are now rentals and probably suit tenants who might commute and I can’t see it affecting the rental they are charged.
"The property agent also reported an upturn in activity in the property market since Boris Johnson’s emphatic win at the General Election in December, saying there had been a lot more new instructions."
More by this authorGerry Warren