Southampton City Council has announced that Marlands Multi-Storey Car Park (MSCP), located near Asda and Marlands Shopping Centre in the city centre, will be closed overnight from midnight to 05:30am, starting in mid-August.
The overnight closures will last for at least a six month trial period and follows feedback from a number of car park users informing the Council that a number of homeless men and women were taking shelter in the car park.
This is not the first time that Southampton City Council has taken such an action – last summer, Grosvenor Square car park was also closed for a trial period after complaints from car park users of an ‘unsafe environment’.
Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said in the press release announcing the overnight closure:
Following on from our successful trial closure of Grosvenor Square MSCP last year, we’ve continued [sic] listened to feedback from users who have complained of poor facilities and the unsafe environment at Marlands MSCP and, as a result, we’ve made the decision to implement these overnight closures at Marlands MSCP, as well.
Ms Rayment added:
Although we are sympathetic to people who sleep rough, we want [sic] ensure that our Marlands car park users at Marlands, who pay to park there, have a safe and clean environment in which to park their vehicles. There are a whole range of facilities on offer to people who sleep rough in our city, including regular outreach work which encourages homeless individuals to take advantage of the services on offer to them – from accommodation through to help with alcohol or drug addiction.
The move has attracted criticism from some quarters. Commenting to Wessex Scene, Southampton Liberal Democrat spokesperson Ben Curd accused the Labour controlled Council of pursuing a ‘negative, heavy-handed approach to the underlying issues of homelessness and substance misuse within the city’. Mr Curd further said:
The Southampton Liberal Democrats are extremely disappointed to see this trial extended, as previously revealed by the Liberal Democrats, this scheme will cost as much as £8,400 a month in payments to a private security firm. This is funding that could be spent on support and prevention measures in an attempt to tackle the root causes of the issues at hand, namely substance misuse and rough sleeping. Further to the cost, when the scheme was introduced at Grosvenor Square no support personnel were present at night to direct those sleeping within to alternative shelter, it’s entirely possible therefore that vulnerable individuals have been evicted with [sic] no-where to go.
Signage will be installed at Marlands MSCP shortly, to inform users and local businesses of the future overnight unavailability of the 810 vehicle capacity car park. The Council has said that alternative car parking options located nearby include West Park MCSP and all alternatives can be found on the Council’s interactive map.
The overnight closures will be implemented by the council Parking Services team, with assistance from a local security firm and Hampshire Constabulary. For cars which are accidentally locked in overnight, an emergency out-of-hours number will be provided, although a release fee will be incurred.