The Derry public will not be allowed to use a brand new publicly-funded £5.5m car park at Ebrington.
Ilex - the Derry regeneration company tasked with delivering the project - have now confirmed to the Journal that the barriers will remain down to all but those based at the site and their visitors.
The completion of the 214-space car park,accessed via a specially created new exit from King Street Roundabout, was heralded amid much fanfare back in November, but the barriers have remained down to the public.
The underground carpark and platform above it took several years to complete, and the whole £5.5m cost was funded from the public purse through the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.
In answer to a series of questions submitted by the Journal, Ilex defended the decision not to make it a public car park and also claimed there was no need for additional car parking spaces to those already in the city.
A spokesperson for the company said of the new car park at the former British Army base: “The availability of adequate and appropriate parking is a key element in securing planning permission for future development.
“It is used by people working at Ebrington and their visitors, by event organisers, event traders and their staff. It is not a paying car park.
“The carpark is for patrons of Ebrington and is not a paying carpark.”
The spokesperson added; “Representations have also been received from car park operators in the city clearly demonstrating that the existing car parks do not operate at full capacity, including over the Christmas period.”
Ilex also defended not opening the carpark to the public for the Christmas Village and Market.
The spokeswoman said: “Up to 400 car parking spaces were provided for the public to the east of the site (accessed off St Columb’s Road/ Browning Drive). The car park was never full.”
The £5.5m car park project involved excavation and infrastructural work, new roads, access and walkways, and a ground level platform capable of accommodating a 75,000 sq ft building.
When asked if Ilex considered that the project was value for money for Derry, she added: “A post project evaluation will be carried out 12 months after project completion. It will evaluate achievement of project objectives. However: a) The level of parking provision facilitates a greater level of development at Ebrington; b) The car park has been designed to utilise the available space, not only for car parking, but also to present investment opportunity for the future.
The project has supported planning applications for a new craft brewery and café, she said, adding: “Enabling such investment and job creation are some of the benefits Ilex envisages from the regeneration.”