Southampton residents and parents of children who go to Swaythling Primary School have raised serious concerns over the University of Southampton’s proposed construction of a 4-tier multi-storey car park adjacent to the school site. Wessex Scene has also learned that some will even stage a peaceful protest outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office tomorrow afternoon.
As part of the University’s plans to maintain and modernise Highfield Campus, the University proposes to construct a 4-tier multi-storey car park at Hampton Car Park, just off Broadlands Road, adjacent to Swaythling Primary School, to remedy the current ‘disparate and disjointed parking provision, with car parking of varying quantities in multiple locations’. While the current surface parking at Hampton provides 331 spaces, the proposed multi-storey and surface parking development would see 714 spaces become available.
To proceed, the University must first gain planning permission from the City Council. As part of this process, neighbourhood residents are invited to submit comments until 3rd April for or against the application. More than a dozen objections have been made to the proposal with no resident expressing support so far and consistent concern raised about the proximity to the local primary school. Additionally, two councillors for Swaythling ward, Labour’s Lorna Fielker and the Conservatives’ Spiros Vassiliou have objected to the plans and a peaceful protest outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office is planned tomorrow afternoon at 4PM by school parents and concerned local residents.
A number of different reasons have been cited by residents in their objections to the project. Some have raised the height of the car park on completion, concerned that it will dwarf surrounding residences. The University has said that on completion the maximum height of the building will be 13 metres. Others suggest the significantly increased capacity will exacerbate local traffic problems creating ‘chaos with many roads then being used as “Rat Runs”‘ by drivers. However, the most vociferous objections to the car park plan centre around noise and air pollution fears. One resident and University of Southampton professor of statistics, Antony Overstall, leaves no question as to his feelings about a multi-storey car park being adjacent to a primary school:
An estimated 100 people die in Southampton every year due to excessive air pollution. However this application plans to put a 700 space car park right next to Swaythling Primary School. The positioning could not be worse. It would expose children’s lungs to toxic fumes on a daily basis and be extremely detrimental to their ongoing health.
On 15th February 2019, the Southampton City Council Leader, Christopher Hammond, declared a climate change emergency. If the council were to approve this application then it would just expose this declaration as a cheap political stunt…
As well as residents’ concerns, Southampton Airport have been consulted on the plans and gave a qualified approval of the project, subject to adequate measures put in place to prevent the roosting, nesting or “loafing” of birds on the roof of the multi-storey, evidently fearful of an increased risk of bird strikes on aircraft.
The University originally held consultations on its future plans for Highfield Campus in June 2018, before holding an open exhibition on proposed plans last Autumn in preparation for submitting planning permission applications. In their November exhibition guide, which also outlined why they were proposing the developments, they state that air quality, noise pollution, archaeological and transport assessments were made. The air quality assessment deemed that ‘the change in concentrations between future year scenarios were very small and no greater than <0.2ug/m3 of NO2 [Nitrogen Dioxide]… small enough to be considered not significant’. On possible increased noise pollution, the assessment was similar, ruling that increased car activity would only result in a less than 1 decibel increase in noise in the area and ‘existing noise levels are dominated by nearby road traffic noise and overhead aircraft flights’. Transport assessments were also favourable; the only University assessment which was qualified in its ruling concerned the possible uncovering of archaeological remains during excavations.
Some residents are not convinced, however. In his objection to the proposal, Geoffrey Miller states that in the original application for Hampton Car Park, the University sought permission for a multi-storey building, but were declined. He continues:
The University has gone back on promises/caveats & permissions made for the existing surface car park especially in regards to boundaries and responsibilities which has seen both local residents and SCC (Tree department) in direct opposition to the University, all noted & documented by SCC [Southampton City Council] — This does not bode well for any further proposals…
Restricted by the Council to a maximum of 1,768 car parking spaces, once finally implemented the University’s car parking capacity will only increase by 100 spaces compared to now, to 1,730 car parking spots. This is because the real aim of the proposed Hampton Car Park development is to be able to shift nearly all of the 414 current spaces at Broadlands Car Park across the road as the University hopes to develop on this area in the medium-term future new Mathematical Science facilities. If the multi-storey development receives Council approval, Broadlands Car Park will temporarily accommodate Hampton’s capacity while construction work takes place there via the extension of the car park onto previous allotment spaces which the University now owns and the demolition of Building 45 (Health Sciences).
To view public comments on the proposals and submit your own as a local resident, click here. The neighbourhood consultation ends on Wednesday and a decision must be made on the project by 4th June.