Parking woes mean Hawkenbury residents want scheme AXA-d
DEFIANT residents in Hawkenbury have sent a resounding message to AXA bosses, declaring their extension plans will do nothing to stop the area’s parking woes.
Angry residents converged on the Town Hall for a planning forum to express their anger at AXA PPP Healthcare’s plans to extend its headquarters in Forest Road without a more robust parking plan.
Homeowners on neighbouring roads are fed up of AXA staff parking their cars in their streets.
As well as highlighting their parking concerns, petitioners went to great lengths to show the scale of the visual disruption by commissioning their own drawings of what the proposals would look like based on the planning information submitted by AXA.
AXA’s £4 million expansion would increase staff capacity to from 540 to 740 and parking spaces to 324 by creating 65 new spaces.
However, Hawkenbury Village Association member Michael Doyle said the shortfall would mean staff cars spilling onto residential roads.
He said: “This problem is of AXA’s making and it is up to them to sort it out.
“Let’s face the facts: there is a shortfall of at least 416 parking spaces. You cannot argue against it, those are the facts. Most of the residents don’t have a driveway and we have an AXA employee’s car parking outside our house every day.
AXA, the largest private employer in Tunbridge Wells, wants to build a two-storey car park to try to ease the problem and said it would plan a “robust” alternative travel plan with incentives rewarded to employees who don’t drive to the building.
But neighbours claimed this pledge did not go far enough and argued the proposed new extension should be built on the eastern side of the land to create extra room for car parking.
Tim Harper, chairman of the Camden Park Residents’ Association, presented pictures of how the new building would look and said residents would have “a grandstand view”.
“With power comes responsibility,” he said. “Their consultation was a farce, at short term and in the summer holiday. We ask them to go back to the drawing board and bring something not so demanding.”
He added: “What about trying to produce a solution to their office needs by working with the community, not causing traffic and parking mayhem and, more importantly, putting a vast building and two-storey car park up against their neighbours’ boundary?
“We really feel AXA shouldn’t be playing games with us. We want to live in peace with our neighbours and we want them to give us a chance to talk to them.”
Vic Hester of VLH Associates working on behalf of the insurance company, defended the plans.
He said: “The proposal provides additional office space and provides an additional 200 jobs. AXA is aware of the car parking in nearby streets. We are prepared to make a number of commitments in this plan. We will give funding to set up a traffic regulation order or a parking scheme.
“The AXA scheme provides a reasonable amount of parking.”
The extension proposal will go to a planning committee in the new year.