Car rental firm allowed to take over waiting room at Elstow park and ride site

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Elstow Park and Ride
Elstow Park and Ride

A waiting room intended to help users of Bedford’s park and ride to keep out of the elements while they wait to hop on a bus into town is set to be taken over by… a car rental company.

The council say it is “regrettable” that users of the park & ride at Progress Park, in Elstow, will now have to sit and wait for buses in their cars, or stand under an awning at the waiting room building.

“It is regrettable,” said planning officer Paul Lennox, “but users of the Park & Ride are able to wait in their car until the bus is due, and toilets would continue to be available to bus users.

“There is real time Information available now to passengers waiting in their cars; there is currently also some outdoor shelter from an awning that covers the area where the buses turn up, which will be retained.”

Monday’s meeting of Bedford Council’s planning committee was also told that the proposal, by the car hire firm, Enterprise, would create 11 jobs. The company would also look after the loos, councillors were told.

Councillors were told that even before the pandemic the site’s parking spaces had not been used to capacity.

“Indeed, even with the loss of the spaces, the site would still not be used to capacity,” Mr Lennox added.

The land is owned by the council and the meeting heard that the borough does not subsidise the park and ride, which is a commercial operation.

Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) asked: “By passing this, are we saying that park and ride doesn’t work, or that Ampthill Road doesn’t work?”

Mr Lennox replied: “The park and ride has been used, but not to capacity. It is used fairly extensively but not to capacity and there is sufficient capacity even after Enterprise would take over part of the car park.”

Labour group leader, Cllr Sue Oliver (Kempston North) said the pragmatic decision would be to approve the plan.

“I would much rather that the park and ride had been a resounding success and was full of cars parked there for people to take the bus into town,” she said.

“I would rather not be helping to put more cars on the road in the form of rented cars.

However, even in pre-covid this site had spare spaces and we have to be pragmatic I think and accept for the time being at least this is the best use we can make of this space.”

Committee members unanimously agreed to grant the planning application for a change of permitted use.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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