Has St Albans council breached planning rules over Westminster Lodge parking?

Steps leading up to Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre

Steps leading up to Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

A MARTIAL arts instructor at the new Westminster Lodge believes that St Albans council is in breach of its own planning permission by opening the leisure centre without providing sufficient parking.

Des Allen was given a parking ticket earlier this month when he had driven round and round the existing car parks to find a space and eventually got into an unmarked bay where someone else was leaving.

He went into the leisure centre to take his class only to come out and find a ticket on his car. He asked a nearby traffic warden why he had been given a ticket only to be told it was because he had parked in an unmarked bay.

One of his students also got a ticket at the same time.

Des said: “It is not just people using the centre who are looking for spaces but the park, the running track and the golf as well.

“When it got planning consent it would have got parking consent as well and normally there is a condition that states that a building mustn’t be occupied until parking spaces are made available.”

The site of the old Westminster Lodge centre, which has now been demolished, is to become a car park but it is still a construction site.

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Des and others who have fallen victim to over-zealous parking attendants believe that the parking restrictions should be relaxed until that happens.

He added: “I think it is unfair that traffic wardens target down there because they know it is easy meat.”

He has appealed against the parking ticket and sent a covering letter but has yet to receive a response.

The state of the site and what he described as the “poor management of the works” at Westminster Lodge has been described as an accident waiting to happen by another local resident.

Mark Edwards said that when visitors finally found a parking space, they were guided across muddy paths and behind the demolition site, past the Abbey Theatre to the leisure centre along a poorly-lit route.

Not only were people walking along the road towards oncoming traffic because it was not a direct route but last week he had seen the contractors digging a trench across the entrance road which they were directing traffic over without the use of a plate.

That had occurred just before 6pm which, he argued, was a bad time to carry out such works. Mark said it showed a total disregard for residents both in terms of customer experience but more importantly safety.

Mike Lovelady, St Albans council’s head of legal, democratic and regulatory services, said: “The car park in Verulamium Park is operated on a first-come, first-served basis and there is no guarantee of available parking.

“Parking bays are marked and signs clearly state that a penalty charge will be issued for failure to park within a marked bay. The parking bays are in place to assist drivers when parking and to maximise the amount of space available for everyone to park safely, particularly where spaces are at a premium.

“Traffic wardens are instructed to apply these restrictions in a fair and consistent manner in accordance with the parking signs and markings on site.”

Mr Lovelady went on: “We are aware of the increased demand for spaces that the new Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre is creating. Work is currently taking place to provide additional parking spaces on the site of the old Westminster Lodge leisure facility.

“This work could not have taken place prior to opening the new leisure facility. Planning permission has been granted for the parking arrangements for the new leisure centre.”

He added: “We understand that this landscaping and construction work is causing users of the facility disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. We are assured by our contractors that safety standards are being adhered to while the work is taking place.”