Horsham District Council’s planning committee approved two applications last night (Wednesday, February 6), one for a four-deck car park and the other for a three-deck design.
The building was adapted after concerns about its external appearance, with a ‘living wall’ featuring planting on the outside of the main stairwell.
But councillors and residents questioned how easy the green installation would be to maintain.
Councillor Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) said: “I am absolutely fascinated about the thought of the maintenance of the living wall. I have got visions of it either shrivelling or becoming like Day of the Triffids.”
The upkeep of the wall was also a worry of the Horsham Society.
Writing in the County Times, the society’s Malcolm Willis questioned its future upkeep.
Addressing councillors, another member, Ron Bates, said it could become a ‘massive eyesore’.
He added: “We agree with the principle of the new car park but object to the proposed ground floor plus four decks due to its design and overall size.”
Councillors largely welcomed the plans, earmarked for redevelopment by HDC’s cabinet with a capital budget of up to £7.25m in September.
The committee was told the building was ‘bold yet sensitively clad’, designed to ‘dissipate the perception of its mass’ from various viewpoints.
Welcoming the principle, councillor Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), said: “I think there is no doubt with the expansion of Horsham happening that we are going to see a marked increase in the need for car parking. Anything we do about it now is advantageous.”
Cllr Burgess, meanwhile, suggested more pay stations were needed – a theme which echoed throughout the debate on other matters, including the number of toilets.
He said: “Please, with the experience we have already seen, we need more than three pay stations. Four at least, if not five. We have seen so many failures where we have been left with two or, in some cases, only one, causing huge frustration to everybody, including me.”
The committee approved both schemes, voting on the larger of the two applications first. Two councillors abstained.
The new building will replace the existing 330-space facility, with a capacity of between 426 and 517 spaces.
The project is being timed to coincide with the redevelopment of Piries Place Shopping Centre, which is set to see a new hotel, Everyman cinema, and restaurants built by the start of 2019.
Councillors added a non-binding, informative condition asking HDC officers to look again at issues including the green wall and toilet provision.