Over 750,000 visitors are expected each year and the Eden Project needs to show that a satisfactory car parking system can be set-up, to gain planning approval. A parking agreement with Lancaster City Council will also support a bid for government funding to assist the Morecambe site’s development.
Speaking during this week’s cabinet meeting at Morecambe Town Hall (January 18), Green Coun Gina Dowding gave more details about car parking ideas, which at this stage will be known as an ‘agreement in principle’.
She said: “The full Eden planning application will go to the next planning committee meeting, For that to be looked at, Eden North is also creating a car parking strategy. Our cabinet decision today is about approving an agreement in principle, to say that the council, as the owner of car parks in the area, is happy to enter into an agreement with Eden.. The full details will be looked at on a later date.
“I’ve heard some concerns about how much this might cost the council. The intention is that there will be no financial detriment to the council as a result and no costs for the changes and how we release some existing Lancaster City Council car parking to Eden North.
“There will also be a ‘dynamic’ car parking system, so we are not designating spaces that are not needed on some days. This agreement allows Eden North to reassure the planning committee. More details will come back to the cabinet for final approval. ”
She added: “Around 400 of the council’s car parking spaces are being suggested, based on the amount of traffic Eden North is expected to generate. There have been some questions about traffic which will be addressed in detail by the planning committee and with a traffic plan.”
Conscious of the move to greener types of transport and ambitions to reduce emissions, she said: “People may think that there is no mitigation (to counter the impact of car-use). However, Eden North is about sustainability and they will be looking to reduce car travel and increase other ways to get to Eden North. They are also looking to intercept traffic with a park-and-ride facility at the M6, So this agreement is about the council’s car park assets and is not a traffic plan.”
Morecambe Bay Independent Coun Tricia Health said: “I think it’s important that we move this forward. This is an agreement in principle and it’s important for Eden that this is progressed at this stage.”
Under the agreement, parking spaces for Eden visitors would be spread between Morecambe town centre and an M6 motorway park-and-ride site. The system would be flexible and could respond to changing visitors numbers on a day-by-day basis, based on advanced bookings information.
In the longer term, it is also hoped that more rail services will be provided by train operators into Morecambe as visitor numbers develop.
A draft agreement in principle was attached to reports for this week’s cabinet meeting. It highlighted details to be considered including car park locations, charges, direction signs, car park machine maintenance and different potential ticket types, such as parking tickets for Eden staff and parking tickets for pre-booked reserved parking spaces and unreserved spaces.
Consideration will also be given to measures to encourage visitors to spend time elsewhere in Morecambe.
The proposed 10-year agreement would also allow car parks to be taken back under control by the city council for other other uses, such as for building and regeneration projects.
Councillors on the cabinet voted to approve the agreement in principle.