Published: 00:01, 16 June 2019
A bold vision to reshape a controversial multi-storey car park in Canterbury to include swanky apartments has been branded "madness" by the city council's leader.
Cllr Michael Dixey (Lib Dem) wants the authority to drastically change its divisive Station Road West proposals - despite construction work beginning more than three months ago.
He wants there to be a 100-space car park on the ground floor and £250,000 apartments above.
The major redraft would cost significantly more than the current £9.1 million contract to build the 370-space multi-storey.
But Cllr Dixey, who represents Westgate ward, says the move would be "extremely popular", given that more than 2,000 disgruntled residents have signed a petition opposing the current scheme.
"What they have planned is appalling - it will be pulled down in 20 years as multi-storeys are things of the 1980s," he said.
"This new plan would be a significantly better option as we'd cut pollution, there'd be none of the issues regarding no lift and we simply don't need all these extra spaces.
"The contract would cost about £3 million to £4 million more so I'm sure Willmott Dixon [the construction firm delivering the project] would warmly welcome it.
"There could be up to 30 apartments across three storeys - but it would be on exactly the same footprint as the multi-storey, so the sewer diversion and piling work to date would not be wasted."
"If Rob Thomas were to go through with this he would make himself one of the most popular council leaders for decades and it would get his leadership off to a flying start. We'd let him take the credit as this matter is far too important to be political."
The council-fronted project is due to completed at the beginning of next year, with the authority claiming the three-tiered car park will encourage the use of electric vehicles.
In response to the Lib Dem proposals, Cllr Thomas (Con) said: "To rip it all up now would be madness, not least of all because the engineering works that have been done would not support the type of development Cllr Dixey wishes to see.
"As the new leader, I've sat down the chief executive to get the latest on key projects, with the multi-storey car park being one of them. At present we're contractually committed to at least £5 million of the project."
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