Oct 12 2011 by Judith Tonner, Airdrie & Coatbridge
SHOPPERS and traders will receive a festive gift with news that Airdrie’s two main car parks are to reopen for five weeks from December.
The facilities at Hallcraig Street and Upper Mill Street will become temporarily available at the start of that month to boost the town in the run-up to Christmas, following feedback from traders.
Both car parks have been closed since August for construction of a new upper deck to accommodate the additional traffic which will be generated by the opening of Airdrie’s new health centre in July.
Visitors to the town centre have since struggled to find parking places, and last week’s Advertiser highlighted the impact on neighbouring businesses – many of whom say trade has dropped by between 40 and 60 per cent.
Building contractors Luddon have now agreed with North Lanarkshire Council to accelerate operations throughout October and November to create time for the work to be suspended.
Motorists will then be allowed access to around 170 of the 200 spaces at Hallcraig Street and all 36 in the smaller facility as they make their preparations for Christmas and new year.
Councillors were informed of the plan at last week’s local area partnership meeting and “warmly welcomed” the news.
Its convener, Airdrie North Councillor Tommy Morgan, said: “The council has listened to public opinion and this is great news for everyone who uses the town centre.
“The closure has caused a lot of frustration, as the Advertiser ably summarised, and things were brought to a head in the past couple of weeks.
“Of course, this work is crucial for the long-term viability of our town centre and as the old saying goes, if you want to make an omelette, you have to crack some eggs.
“However, we’re well aware of the impact on the local economy and the hope is that allowing cars to park at these locations over the festive period will help that.
“Following detailed and protracted negotiations between the council and contractors, it was agreed that construction would be suspended for the whole month of December and the first week in January.”
Work on the car-park project is expected to resume again in the second week of 2012, with a projected finish date in March or April.
David Smart, the local authority’s business manager for roads operations, said: “Negotiations had been ongoing for a considerable period before the council reached an agreement with the contractor to reopen the car parks during December.
“This is in response to discussions with traders who were concerned about the impact of the car parks’ closure on their businesses during the busy festive period.
“We appreciate these concerns and have been able to negotiate with the contractor to change the building schedule and allow shoppers access to the whole of the small car park and 85 per cent of the large car park.
“They will close again in January to allow the construction work on the new 387-space multi-storey car park – which includes 20 disabled spaces – to be completed.”