Our thanks to Berkhamsted Citizens Association for this news item.
“A piling rig, A piling rig, my kingdom for a piling rig!” as Shakespeare [Richard III, Act V, scene IV] might (not) have said…. At long last, a piling rig has finally arrived on the Multi-storey Car Park site on Lower Kings Road and works can now commence on the foundations for the new structure.
What was the Lower Kings Road car park has been hoarded off since early January and the first activity, once the area was closed off, was to divert underground utility services away from where the new car park will be built. It appears that services diversions on the car park site have not gone well, because five months later, they were still at it. Now that works have begun, Dacorum Borough Council’s Project Manager estimates that completion will be February of 2020. At the June meeting of the Parking Forum – a Working Group of the Town Council at which Councillors, interested individuals and organisations (including Berkhamsted Citizens) are represented – the Council’s Project Manager was urged to improve communication with local businesses and residents, to inform them what is happening behind the hoardings and to keep them updated on what the forecast completion date is.
Who is paying for the delay? According to DBC’s Project Manager, the Car Park contractor, Huber, is contractually responsible for the Utilities works, so Huber bears its own costs of being on site for longer than was anticipated. Normally the contractor could be liable for payment of liquidated damages for finishing later than the contract date, however it appears that the clock for delays only starts ticking once the Utilities works have been completed and Huber is able to get a ‘clear run’ at the construction works. It is therefore in Huber’s interests to complete the construction works as quickly as they can, in order to minimise their cost exposure.
The reduced number of the parking spaces in the town centre during the Christmas trading season will clearly have an impact on local businesses, and as well as residents and visitors who face another winter season using the temporary car park on the Moor, not to mention the further damage to that valuable green space in the town centre. These matters remain as a major concern.
It is also of some concern that, according to DBC’s Project Manager, operational aspects of the car park, including the charging regime and how many spaces will be reserved for business users, have not yet been finalised. The Forum members urged DBC to engage with the Forum, and thus with local businesses and residents to ensure that the new car park operates to the benefit of local businesses and residents.
The imposition of the temporary Car Park on The Moor site in central Berkhamsted has been contentious from the off. Looking objectively, Dacorum Borough Council was placed in an invidious position. If it closed the Lower Kings Road car park for the duration of the construction works for the new multi-storey, without any provision for replacement spaces, it would be accused of strangling the town’s businesses, many of whom depend on customers who drive in for their footfall. Where to put the temporary spaces is also contentious – too far away and people will consider it too far to walk, so a town centre site was considered imperative. Plans for the temporary car park were submitted for Planning approval, but Dacorum shot itself in the foot by proposing to cut down ancient trees on The Moor, and only a last minute action by local Town and Borough Councillors saved several important trees from the chop. The Planning consent stipulated a condition that the period of operation of the temporary car park should be for a maximum of one year. This should have been sufficient to allow for the eight month construction period for the new multi-storey, but as we now know, this has been delayed. So… what should happen after November this year, which will be a year since the temporary car park opened? Should the temporary car park be removed and the Moor be reinstated with new trees planted in the winter season – notwithstanding the parking pressures this will place on the town and its economy or should the period of operation of the temporary car park be extended for four months or so, until the new multi-storey car park has opened ? Your views on this will be welcomed. Please address these to the BCA Chairman or any BCA committee member, or drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be a further update in the Autumn issue of Berkhamsted Living magazine.