PLANS for a new car park at the ASOS warehouse will not only alleviate traffic problems around one of the borough’s biggest workplaces but also put the final nail in the coffin of a long-feared waste plant originally planned for the site.
The online fashion retailer’s application to create a new 314-space car park off Park Spring Road opposite the warehouse were approved unanimously by councillors on Tuesday.
ASOS employs around 4,000 people at the warehouse near Grimethorpe and the extra space will alleviate concerns about workers parking on the main road and reduce congestion in its existing car park during hectic shift changeovers.
Planning board chairman Coun Doug Birkinshaw said the car park development would be a relief to the hundreds who objected to the use of the site opposite as a renewable energy park.
The objectors were said to have scored a ‘David and Goliath’ victory in 2014 when Barnsley Council refused plans for an anaerobic digestion plant, which recovers energy from breaking down waste food, and a timber resource recovery centre, which breaks down waste wood.
The company behind it came back with revised plans for just the timber plant which were approved in 2015 although building work has still not started.
Campaigners said they were concerned that following that decision the developer would bring back the anaerobic plant at a later date ‘through the back door’.
But the plan for the ASOS car park is on the site where the anaerobic plant would have gone.
Coun Birkinshaw told the meeting this week: “People said when we approved the timber plant ‘what’s to stop them coming back with the rest of it’. We said at that time there were negotiations about using it as a car park.
“Well, it’s taken some time, but it’s here at last.”
Coun Pauline Markham said the anaerobic plant had been a huge concern to thousands of people living in villages surrounding the site. They were worried it would produce foul smells and also pose a potential health hazard.
“I think people can rest easy now with this car park being built,” said Coun Markham.
“People were very, very worried about that plant. I think that can now be put to bed in people’s minds.
“As councillors when we make decisions as a planning board, we have to take note of planning officers’ recommendations. We don’t always agree, but we have to be very careful because if we go against them and refuse something and we don’t have a very good planning reason for refusing it, they can overturn it on appeal.
“It will be a comfort to people all around this area that the anaerobic plant plans won’t be coming back.”
It is hoped the new car park will have a significant impact on parking problems around the warehouse.
Councillor Pauline Markham said the problems had been quite severe as workers who couldn’t get their cars into the existing car park left them along the main road around the site.
She said: “One of the problems is it keeps getting bigger and employing more and more people. Which is great. We really do welcome the jobs. But it has led to some dangerous parking.”
Employee Nicoleta Moldoveanu, 20, died earlier this year when she was struck by a car at around 7am after completing a night shift. Colleagues and local crime meetings lodged concerns about the site’s parking provision.
Since the incident, XPO Logistics, which runs the site on ASOS’s behalf, took steps towards addressing the issues - including hosting regular staff briefings to tell employees not to park on the road and be mindful of post-shift congestion.
The site currently has 553 parking spaces for its workforce of about 4,000, but as not all are on shift at the same time, it equates to roughly one space per two staff members.
The new car park increases capacity by 57 per cent.
A spokesman for XPO said: “The proposed new car parking facility is intended to relieve the periodic short-term vehicle congestion experienced during peak staff changeovers by providing a means of separating the shifts.
“At shift changeover, incoming and outgoing shift workers’ vehicles will be kept separate in order to speed up the process and reduce both incoming and outgoing queues.”