Poll: Should the businessman behind a £1m car park plan at Holt have to pay a £20,000 planning fee?
06:30 03 April 2014
A businessman is threatening to pull the plug on a £1m car park plan at Holt over claims planners are putting hurdles in the way of the much-needed scheme.
Well-known company boss Michael Baker is behind a scheme for a two-storey car park in the town centre which has been dogged with parking problems in recent years.
The scheme would add another 162 spaces in two levels above the 125 spaces outside his Budgens store off Kerridge Way.
But he says North Norfolk District Council is making it difficult for him - including wanting to charge him a £20,000 fee to deal with the plans.
Mr Baker said: “I have no intention of going ahead with the project unless there is some discretion over the fee.”
After months of seeking a price for the planning fee, he was only recently told it would have to be dealt with as a commercial building.
Mr Baker said: “Yes there is a charge, but it is partly a public facility. It is just a steel structure and does not even have a roof.”
His company CT Baker, which also runs the long-established Bakers and Larners department store, stepped in with its car park plan after he felt another private scheme at Thornage Road was stalling.
“A lot of people don’t come here in the busy times because there is nowhere to park,” he explained.
“There is a history of Holt needing another car park, and this business is prepared to invest £1m to do soomething about it.
“I have been talking to officials for a year about this, and was also initially told there was no need for a traffic assessment. Now they say there is.”
“I admit Budgens will benefit but so will the town.”
Mr Baker said that when he developed a builders’ merchants at Aylsham in neighbouring Broadland District Council the authority “welcomed us with open arms”.
He felt North Norfolk was “making things difficult” and he had no intention of pressing ahead with the scheme until there was “acceptable resolution” to the problem.
A district council spokesman said: “We are having a dialogue with Mr Baker’s agent and we are keen to move the plan forward for the benefit of the visitors and residents of Holt.
“We are prepared to work alongside him to come up with something that is satisfactory - but most go through the planning process.”
That was also likely to involve assessments of the car park’s impact on traffic and the local heritage setting.
She stressed that the fee scales, and assessment requirements were laid down by others - the government and county hall.
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