Multi-storey Exeter car park ‘at risk of collapse’ needs £3.9million for repairs and revamp

A multi-storey car park in Exeter ‘at risk of collapse’ and blighted by antisocial behaviour needs a £3.9milion cash injection, city councillors have been warned. 

The top four decks of the 355-space Cathedral and Quay facility were shut after structural defects were discovered earlier this year.

Fixing the problems will cost £1.5million – while a further £2.4million also needs to be splashed on refurbishing the site.

Councillors have also been told the car park is deemed ‘unsafe and threatening’ because of graffiti, vandalism, drug use, rough sleepers and under-age drinking.

Exeter City Council’s executive is due to consider the matter on Tuesday.

In a report to members, director David Bartram says: “The Council became aware of structural issues at Cathedral and Quay multi-storey car park in late 2019.

“During the course of the subsequent survey it became apparent that a risk of collapse existed due to the presence of structural defects and the upper four decks of the car park were closed.

“Failure of surface coatings due to a legacy of insufficient maintenance or planned replacement programmes of deck coatings has resulted in water seepage throughout the car park structure. The majority of the water ingress and resultant defects are on the top two decks, but continue through lower decks.

“In plain terms, if water is permitted to continue to enter the structure, more reinforcement will corrode. As more reinforcement corrodes, the less capable the structure becomes in resisting loads, especially the live loads of vehicle traffic. When loading exceeds remaining structural capability, collapse is likely to occur.

“As a result of the concerns raised by the structural engineer, the top four decks of the car park have been closed, which is impacting on the income potential of this asset, as well as having a detrimental impact on local businesses and activities.”

Mr Bartram says of the potential refurbishment: “Unfortunately the condition of the car park tends to underwhelm first-time visitors and reflects poorly on the city and the council.

“Despite previous lighting upgrades, the site is not well lit and this, combined with other antisocial issues, can give the impression of the car park being unsafe and threatening. The poor lighting also detracts from the current CCTV coverage.

“Antisocial issues occur mainly during the evenings and include graffiti; vandalism to parking equipment, lights and lifts; rough sleepers; drug use; under-age drinking; skateboarding and youths congregating and being noisy; young drivers revving engines and playing loud music.

“These behaviours can deter genuine customers and impact directly on the quality of life for those residents living nearby.

“Providing on-site security patrols is expensive if buying in, or unsustainable if redeploying internal staff from other duties.

“The solution is a system whereby there is a deterrent for vehicles to enter unless legitimately using the site for parking purposes, such as being shutter controlled and pay on entry/exit and access for pedestrians is restricted to those who have legitimately parked their car on site or hold a valid permit.

“A refurbishment of the site to bring it to the same level as John Lewis car park and an investment in the above parking/security equipment would upgrade the car park to the premium level where we currently charge a higher tariff and up until midnight.

“These changes, as well as attracting new customers could reasonably increase income at this site by up to £50,000 per annum and better reflect the prestige and ambition of the city to visitors.”

The executive’s recommendation will go to full council on April 21.

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