Ilex defends £5.5m ‘private’ car park amid fresh concerns

The entrance/exit to the car park at Ebrington. DER0115MC020.
The entrance/exit to the car park at Ebrington. DER0115MC020.

Ilex has moved to defend keeping a publicly-funded £5.5m car park for use by those investing on the Ebrington site.

A spokeswoman for the company issued a robust defence of the need for the car park following concerns raised by local businessman Robert Ferris, who runs an estate agent’s office directly opposite Ebrington.

Ilex - the urban regeneration company tasked with developing Ebrington for the benefit of local people since the 26-acre site was handed over by the Ministry of Defence 10 years ago,

The controversial Ebrington car park is one of a number of projects Ilex has been involved in on the site.

Mr Ferris said people in Bond Street and nearby areas were suffering as a result of the lack of public parking in the area.

He said that people visiting the area were parking “all over the place”.

“I have been on to Ilex and even been on to Ccuncillors on a number of occasions,” he said. “This car park needs to be opened and it could be earning some money. It would also help the entire entirely. Staff and people working in this area have no place to park and here we have a car park lying empty all the time.“

A spokesman for Ilex - which is to be wound up in April 2016- said the car park was always viewed as a necessity to accommodate private investment.

“We are awaiting any day now planning permission for the entire 26 acre site,” she said. “26 acres is a large site and you can’t get planning permission without parking.

“As it stands at the moment there are 20 companies working at Ebrington. This car park is for people working on the site and their customers.

“It is there to facilitate the people located at Ebrington and there are 100 people working there at the moment.

“Part of making this an attractive proposition is the availability of parking.

“A priority for Ilex is job creation and one of the things any company looks for is parking for employees and clients. That is why it is so important the site has to service itself.”

The spokeswoman said seven buildings on the site were being progressed at present, with the new cafe due to open within days, and talks progressing over a childcare facility, a domiciliary care facility, a business growth hub, and a bar and restaurant. Ilex also plans to go out to tender soon for a hotel development.

She said private car park operators in the city had approached Ilex back when the car park was built, expressing concerns it would impact on them, adding that Ilex had a responsibility not to disadvantage existing business.

“This is 200 spaces, it is not a huge amount,” the spokeswoman said, while adding there were a further 400 overground car parking spaces available at the other end of the site.

It emerged three weeks ago that the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister which has responsibiility for running Ilex, is to wind up the company at the end of March 2016, with the site expected to transfer to the local council. A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said it is currently working with the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers in relation to Ebrington “as part of the ongoing discussions relating to the eventual transfer of the site to Council”.