Updated: Wednesday, 1st July 2020 @ 4:56pm

Christie car park controversy bears out national trend

Christie car park controversy bears out national trend

By Liam Barnes

“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”
Bill Vaughan

For something so mundane, so every-day and so innocuous as parking a car, there is a very real propensity for extraordinary tension to be caused. Certainly, not many people would agree with Bill’s view.

If the business of parking was not the cause of enough comedy, then the planning behind car parking – the number of spaces, the use of the places, the pricing strategy – is an even greater font for frustration.

Perhaps the most visceral form of car-park rage comes from hospitals, with patients up in arms over charges, residents furious over heavy traffic and few people coming out of the debate unscathed.

A Which? Car survey released recently found that 73% of people who have used a hospital car park in the past two years experienced a problem, and called for hospitals to talk to patients and “provide fair charging systems and flexible payment options.”

“If you have a little extra parking, I err on the side of getting rid of it in favour of having some more greenery.”
Michael King

Indeed, the recent plans for an extended car park for The Christie hospital and cancer research facilities in Withington have caused a stir among local residents.

The new low-rise multi-storey unit, designed by architects Wilson Mason to provide parking for 750 patients, may reach three storeys, with additional on-roof parking suggested.

The facility would be built over existing buildings close to houses on Kinnaird and Rathen Road, to accommodate more visitors and the multi-million pound expansion of the research facilities.

David Graham, who lives on Rathen Road, said: “We think it’s a big expansion and we don’t know why it’s necessary.”

“The scale of the building is just too much,” he added, “It’s going to be very close to the backs of our houses.”

Another resident on Rathen Road, who asked to remain anonymous, went further.

“I’m dead against it because they are putting up spaces which are not needed, will be an eyesore and I am sure take away green spaces and block out all my light,” he said.

One woman living on Rathen Road, who also refused to let her name be used in this article, was furious over the proposals.

“It’s too tall and too near my back wall – I will not be able to see the sky!” she said, “Unless they at least halve its size it will be crap for residents.”

She doubted how effective the car park would be in easing the parking problems, complaining about how it could ruin the area’s aesthetic.

“It will be like living in Colditz with all those lights,” she said, “It will not make traffic congestion any better, people will always park on the roads.”

The resident was also critical of The Christie’s conduct, saying: “They’re playing off their reputation as a cancer hospital to force this through.”

“I think The Christie’s are such a big organisation it’s hard to argue with them – they’re just taking over [the area] altogether,” she added.

Alicia Custis, Head of Communications at The Christie, said: “As we are at such an early stage with plans there is not much detail yet.  

“It is important that we address parking during the design and consultation for the new research building - and make sure we plan for adequate levels of car parking and quick, safe access to the site.”

John Leech, the Liberal Democrat MP for Withington who despite being unable to attend the drop-in sessions has been informed of the plans and in touch with disgruntled residents, offered qualified support for the plans.

“I’ve always backed The Christie’s expansion plans, this is a good development for the area,” he said, “We have got to make sure we get everything right with every big development.”

East Didsbury Councillor David Sandiford, whose portfolio covers planning issues, said: “In general I support the move for more parking. I would be very interested in knowing what residents think in more detail.”

 “No-one has contacted me [to complain about the plans] – usually they contact me about the lack of car parking spaces,” he added.

 “I suspect a very large number of people would welcome more parking spaces – so many of the roads are parked on by people who go to The Christie.”

Several residents on various roads around The Christie did indeed mention problems with car parking, though they were divided on the severity of the issue.

“The car parking is shocking – If you go down a few streets people are parking everywhere,” said Jonathan Bolchover, a Kinnaird Road resident and architect with experience in planning for hospitals.

“I used to have my car blocked all the time until we had [parking] controls put up,” he added.

Chloe Thomas, a medical student who lives on Cotton Lane, on the other side of The Christie development from Kinnaird Road, agreed.

“From 6 in the morning every free car parking space is full,” she said, “The staff car parking situation in particular is ridiculous.”

Peter and Penny Bradshaw, who live on Ferndene Road, were more strident in their view.

“We’re sick of people parking down this road and we cannot get in or out of our drive,” they said.

“You would not be able to get emergency services down the road if there was an accident.”

The Bradshaws were also not convinced that another pay-and-display car park was the answer, saying: “If it’s not free it’s self-defeating.”

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine.'”
Tommy Cooper

Residents have been assured there will be more chances to scrutinise the proposals once the planning application has been submitted, with further drop-in sessions to come at the end of the month [June 20th and 24th].

Whatever happens at The Christie, the rumbles, grumbles and local disagreements that the seemingly uneventful subject of car parks attracts will repeat themselves, like Bill Vaughan and Michael King, nationwide.