Many Arboretum residents have raised concerns about the uncertainty surrounding the City Council’s future plans for the pool site on Sansome Walk.
With rumours of the site being considered for a Pay & Display car park whilst the SWDP has the area earmarked for housing, it is important that the City Council is completely transparent about the options it is considering. This is especially important for those people living in the vicinity, since they would clearly want to have a say in any decision made.
A City Council spokesman was quoted in the Worcester News as saying that they would “keep all options open”. So, what are these options? There are serious existing concerns in the Arboretum area in relation to parking and so the nature of the replacement will be particularly important in as to how it effects such issues.
There was a consultation held at Sansome Walk Swimming Pool over a year ago, with four possible designs of housing. Many people engaged in that consultation, expressing their views about what should go there. I believe there was a widely held view that housing for the elderly would be appropriate. However, there has been no feedback to the Arboretum Residents Association or the local councillors about this consultation. This needs to be published.
I contacted Duncan Sharkey, the Managing Director of Worcester City Council, explaining the above concerns. I asked him to explain what is happening with this site and to make the whole process as transparent as possible. He has assisted with the former, as follows:
The Council has consulted around what type of housing scheme would be appropriate if we disposed for that purpose.
We are also internally considering the practical possibilities of using the site for car parking and will be costing that and considering how such a scheme might be funded. Once we understand the detail we’ll decide whether there is a viable option for car parking and, if there is, do we want to consider it going forwards.
If the answer is yes then we’d be engaging with local people much as we did with the housing option last year.
If not then we’d likely proceed with the housing proposals.
Although it was helpful to understand what is going on, I feel that this response is inadequate. My main concern is around the decision to even consider a car park in this area and the lack of transparency of this decision. Why are the City Council looking at building another car park and in this area? From a transport strategy perspective, Worcester is considered to have too many disparate car parks and would be better served by reducing and consolidating the existing ones. Congestion (and the resulting pollution) is one of the biggest problems that Worcester faces, yet building a car park in this location would obviously make matters worse.
Hence, following the election I feel that it is imperative that whoever runs the City Council opens up the question of what will replace the Sansome Walk pool. True consultation is giving people the options and letting them have a say. However, the current approach is that if a car park is viable and the City Council want to go ahead with it, then at that point local residents will be engaged. This is too late. Residents should be engaged now in having a say as to whether there should be housing, a car park, or something else.