Mill Road Depot update

This article was published in 2018, in Newsletter 137.

The Mill Road Depot development will create 182 new homes (50% affordable) next to Mill Road and the railway. In the last newsletter we wrote about the excessive provision of 150 car parking spaces. Since then, the city council has decided not to reduce that number any further. In that light, we encourage the creation of a scheme that allows existing residents to purchase or rent space in the underground car park, in exchange for converting on-street parking space into people space. That could take the form of tree planting, a ‘parklet’, the provision of some on-street cycle parking, a combination of those ideas or anything else that improves the neighbourhood while reducing the number of cars on the street.

At the end of January we discovered that revised plans for the Depot site had closed off most of the accesses to the Chisholm Trail. In the first iteration of the application the Chisholm Trail had been routed between the backs of buildings and the railways, but there were at least four well-landscaped points of access to the Trail from the Depot site. This was not ideal because last year we had discussed the idea of routing the Trail through the normal, traffic-calmed streets of the site, where it would benefit from natural surveillance and could help increase the amount of available open space for the residents. Putting it behind the buildings runs the risk of the Trail becoming a ‘back alley’ where people would feel unsafe at night. However, with numerous well-landscaped access points we felt that it could work, even if it did not contribute to the open space of the site in the best way possible. Then, when we discovered that those access points were closed off, it was a shock. We put together a blog post, a weekly update and finally a letter of objection regarding the problem.

To their credit, the planning case officer and various councillors have responded in a timely fashion to gather more information and work towards a solution. At the end of February, the applicant published yet another revision to the site plan to try and fix one of the intermediate access points in the site, near the southern end. At the very least it appears that there will be two options available for people: the ‘back alley’ route via the Hooper Street access or one passing through the site and making use of the southern access point. However, that point is directly adjacent to the underground car park ramp and the current design is plagued by poorly placed bollards and awkward angles. Ideally, the flow of all people at this junction should be made safe, convenient and accessible to all. Unfortunately, some of this may not be fixable until the next phase of the project. Meanwhile, the current phase is likely to be heading for the April planning committee meeting for approval.

Matthew Danish