Royal Free hospital ponders new offices on car park site
BOSSES at the Royal Free hospital have angered South End Green traders after it was revealed they are considering building offices on vital car parking spaces. The Ham&High has learned hospital chiefs are pondering plans to build on part of the Lawn Road
BOSSES at the Royal Free hospital have angered South End Green traders after it was revealed they are considering building offices on vital car parking spaces.
The Ham&High has learned hospital chiefs are pondering plans to build on part of the Lawn Road car park which includes 65 spaces for staff parking.
The new building would provide new office space for hospital administrative staff.
But traders are fearful any loss of car parking spaces in the area will have knock on effects and put more pressure on the already limited amount of parking around South End Green.
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Mimmo Rimoli, who owns restaurant Fratelli La Bufala, said: "It is a mess right now. There are not enough spaces here already. Between 9am and 6pm it is impossible to find a space. Traffic wardens are handing out tickets all the time. They know people come to the area and can't find spaces. That's why they make so much money."
Hampstead's Conservative councillor Chris Knight, who used to head Camden Council's parking department said the move would have a negative impact on the area.
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"I would be very unhappy if they took away any staff parking and pushed it out into parts of Gospel Oak and Hampstead wards," he said.
"If they are going to put offices in there then there is no reason why they cannot put underground parking in there for hospital use. I know it would be an added expense but it would ease the overcrowding on the streets."
Pressure on car parking in the streets around South End Green is increased by the number of people visiting the 700,000 patients served by the Royal Free each year.
The Lawn Road car park is around 3,000 metres squared and in 2006 was valued at around �15million.
There are around 235 parking spots allocated to staff in the South car park and on Lawn Road, but Royal Free bosses have been keen in the past for their staff to use public transport to get to work.
The hospital is served by nearby Belsize Underground station as well as Hampstead Heath Overground plus numerous bus routes into the area.
Amjad Butregueno, who owns Icon opticians on South End Road said: "I think staff at the Royal Free should come by public transport because everyone else does. We have the Underground, Overground and buses. Most of the spaces around here are taken by people visiting loved ones at the Royal Free. I think they should be allowed to park in residents bays from 9am to 6pm."
William Wellbank, chairman of the South End Green Association said: "When they put in planning permission we will study it then. You have to ask why there is need for more office space when we are all having budget cuts."
A spokeswoman for the Royal Free said: "We are currently exploring various options for creating office space on the Royal Free site. The feasibility of using space at the Lawn Road car park is being considered. A planning application is not being sought at this stage.
"If this option were to be pursued it would mean the loss of a handful of car parking spaces at most. We are considering ways in which car parking spaces could be preserved.