A failing multi-storey car park in Central Milton Keynes could be closed as early as April next year – and one senior councillor has suggested it could be turned into a money-making mushroom farm!
Discussions are taking place between MK Council and developers in the city with a view to selling the Theatre Car Park, which is costing the council £200,000 each year but only raking in £140,000.
“We should have a look at what they have been doing with underground car parks in Paris,” said Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney), who is a farmer.
“They’ve been growing mushrooms in the car parks, and this one could provide an income for us.”
The idea did not provoke much of a response at Tuesday’s meeting of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee, although councillors agreed that there was a need for action.
Council officers say the 330-space car park, off Marlborough Gate in the Theatre District, has been hit by the new, modern John Lewis car park. There has also been a drop off in people parking in the city centre as internet shopping takes an ever deeper bite out of the retail market, councillors heard.
In addition to that, the car park is in need of significant investment as the lift isn’t working and the barrier is “nearing the end of life.” Rather than investing in the car park, the council’s officers are recommending closing it, as long as an alternative can be found.
“Given the location this is likely to prove an attractive development site,” background papers said.
At one stage the council reduced the hourly parking rate to just 20p, the lowest in Milton Keynes, but it had little effect. The charge is now 40p an hour.
Committee chairman Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) thought closing the car park could cause “reputational damage”.
But the council’s cabinet member for transport and planning, Cllr Martin Gowans (Lab, Bletchley East), said he thought the greatest danger to the council’s reputation would be not being able to sell it and have it boarded up for years.
Cllr Paul Williams (Lab, Central Milton Keynes) agreed. He said he saw no issues with closing the car park. But he added: “It’s important that it does not become a space that attracts unsavoury elements.
“It is near night clubs, and is secluded, so would need some sort of security. I am hoping there will be a quick turnaround through the sale of the site.”