tan timberland boots Campaigners want Oxford park ride plans thrown out as usage drops despite Westgate
ONE of the most controversial planning applications in Oxford’s recent history set to be decided tonight for a second time has been hit by a last minute bombshell.
New figures have revealed the number of people using Seacourt Park and Ride fell after the opening of the new Westgate Centre on October 24.
Oxford City Council, which owns the Botley Road car park, has always said the 685 space expansion is vital to cope with thousands of extra visitors to the centre.
Now it has revealed visitor numbers fell from 28,686 in October to 26,602 in November, although both these figures are significantly up on earlier in the year, when there were 19,000 visitors in April.
Oxford Flood Alliance one of the main groups fighting the 4m expansion has also been monitoring usage over December and said it had not increased at all.
Alliance member Liz Sawyer said: “Despite the opening of the Westgate, there has been no increased use of Seacourt P over this winter.
“The only thing that has got worse is the traffic along Botley Road, as everyone is now driving into the centre to park in the Westgate’s 1,000 space car park.”
Speaking as a resident of Botley Road, Ms Sawyer said West Oxford needed a ‘truly radical rethink of transport problems’,
such as an aerial cable car linking a new Cumnor park and ride, the new West Way development, Seacourt, the railway station and Westgate.
She added: “Personally I think that would provide a real tourist attraction as well as reliable travelling times for commuters and would keep people out of the heavily polluted air of Botley Road, plus they are cheap to run and keep working even during floods.”
Even the council’s officers have said that rather than being full, Seacourt ‘regularly exceeds 85 per cent occupancy’ and is ‘at capacity at the busiest times during weekdays’.
However because of the way the council records usage, if anyone leaves the car park before the full time they have paid for and someone then takes that space, it is counted as more than one space used for that period, so in November usage was recorded as 129 per cent despite there regularly being hundreds of spaces free.
In a statement the council said: “Seacourt Park and Ride has been over capacity every month since April, usage has increased in recent months and demand is predicted to continue rising in the future.”
The Seacourt expansion was narrowly approved by the city council’s West Area Planning Committee on December 12.
That decision was called in for review by 12 councillors who believed the wrong decision may have been made.
Officers have once again recommended councillors to approve, arguing that even though it goes against national planning policy on building in the green belt and flood plain, there are enough ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify it.