This report provides an update on the impact of recent changes to the Council's lettings policy for garages and underground parking.
Valdrin Rexha (Parking Garages & Ancillary Services Manager) presented the report that provided an update on the impact of recent changes to the Council's lettings policy for garages and underground parking. The key changes were:
· To amend the garage licence to allow garages to be used for storage. The previous agreement allowed the storage of a car or a motorbike only.
· To increase charges for private borough residents from £23.08 to £35 per week and to allow lettings to non-borough customers at £50 per week.
· To agree a procurement strategy to refurbish 1,130 garages by 2021/22 with new contract awards to be approved by the Cabinet Member for Housing.
· To rent surplus parking spaces in secure underground car parks such as Walham Green Court to customers who don’t live in the block.
Valdrin Rexha also noted that the service had updated the Council’s website to allow you to book a garage online rather than having to send in a paper form.
The Chair commented that some residents had asked for additional utilities in the garages e.g. a water tap or electrical plug. Valdrin Rexha said the few electrical outlets had to be removed due to the burden of safety inspections and the difficulty of correctly determining charges but officers would explore the use of water-butts to provide water supply.
The Chair asked if there were rules on what people can and can’t store in garages. Valdrin Rexha said there was a clear policy on what can’t be stored and officers carried out spot checks. They took fire safety very seriously.
Councillor Donald Johnson asked if the garages were properly secured and well lit. Valdrin Rexha replied that most garages away from blocks had their own lights and there was CCTV in a lot of garage areas.
Councillor Wesley Harcourt asked where Woodlane was on the schedule of refurbishments as it was suffering from lime coming down from the concrete above. Valdrin Rexha said Woodlane was on next year’s programme.
Councillor Wesley Harcourt recalled an issue at planning committee around the size of the units not being able to fit larger 4x4 vehicles. Valdrin Rexha said the garages typically measured 5.20m by 2.15m and some modern vehicles were simply too large to fit in them – however, all garages were suitable for storage.
Councillor Harry Phibbs asked, with the increase in numbers of electric cars, if there were any plans to put charging points in the garages. Valdrin Rexha said there weren’t plans to put them in garages but the Council was looking at putting charging points on estates in future. Councillor Wesley Harcourt noted that trials had already started with charging points installed in lamp posts in Westcroft Square.
Councillor Harry Phibbs commented that it would be a better use of space to knock down some of the garages sites and use them to build much needed new housing.
Valdrin Rexha said the Council was carrying out feasibility studies for a number of standalone garages sites, but nothing was confirmed.
Councillor Harry Phibbs asked what the rent arrears position was for the garages. Valdrin Rexha said the arrears stood at £40,000. If people failed to pay the Council would either set up payment plan or take the garage back.
That the Committee reviewed and commented on the report.