Councillor unhappy at £400,000 bill for new Billingham car park - needed because flats being built on one that already exists

Darlington and Stockton Times: Coun Bob Cook Coun Bob Cook

A COUNCILLOR has criticised Stockton Borough Council’s plan to spend £400,000 on a new car park in Billingham – so retirement homes can be built on one that already exists.

Coun Phil Dennis said he has taken the issue up with the council's Conservative group, which is looking at ways of taking further action.

However, leader of the council Bob Cook said the retirement homes are a multi-million pound development that will help reduce the authority’s running costs.

The issue came up at the council’s planning committee on Wednesday when permission to create a new car park and build 38 flats for elderly people, with on-site care, nearby on The Causeway, near Billingham Town Centre, was granted.

The apartments will be built on the current Causeway car park and new parking spaces will be created nearby.

Coun Dennis, Conservative, who sits on the planning committee, said: “I am not happy about the lack of transparency in the transactions and the fact that £400,000 of public money is being spent that could have supported other services, or contributed to road and footpath maintenance etc.

“If I was wanting peace and quiet in my senior years I certainly would not consider living on top of a busy dual carridgeway.”

Coun Cook, Labour, said: “There is a strong need for supported living accommodation for older people in Billingham and approval for this fantastic new care facility is something we should be celebrating.

“It would have been short-sighted of us to miss out on this much-needed multi-million pound development due to a car parking issue.

"This particular site offers great access to health services and shops. We did consider other sites in Billingham but as none were suitable, we sought funding to provide a replacement car park and this was agreed by full council.

“Independent living accommodation such as this will actually save the council money in the long-run because in many cases they provide older people with a more suitable and cost-effective alternative to expensive care home placements.”

The new retirement apartments, which will offer on-site care to enable old people to live in their own homes as long as possible, will be built by the Vela housing association.

A total of 28 of the two-bedroom flats will be offered for affordable rent, five for shared ownership and five will be sold on the open market.

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