Will ‘pigs fly’ before free parking is introduced in Stevenage? Our politicians respond to parking charge hike

Councillor Robin Parker says pigs might fly before parking in Stevenage is free, but the town's MP Stephen McPartland says there must ben three hours free parking.Picture: Archant

Councillor Robin Parker says pigs might fly before parking in Stevenage is free, but the town's MP Stephen McPartland says there must ben three hours free parking.Picture: Archant

Archant

Stevenage politicians are at loggerheads about the hike in parking charges that came into force in council car parks across the town on Monday.

Summary of Stevenage parking charge changes

- Most off-street parking has increased by 10p per hour

- The pay and display bays have been frozen, except for the town centre long-stay rates which have increased to deter long-stay use in the pay & display bays

- Short-stay in the town centre has been frozen for the evening, Sunday and up to three hours, with a 10p per hour increase at other times

- Long stay at the railway in the day has increased 50p, but is frozen for Saturday and Sunday

- Season tickets are going up by one per cent in the town centre and 3.8 per cent at the railway station

- A discounted 50p tariff for 30 mins parking at St George’s Way and Westgate has been approved to be ongoing

• Full details are at www.stevenage.gov.uk

The price increase sees the council using its powers to set fees under the Road Traffic Regulation Act.

It says the increase is fair because it is in line with other towns in Hertfordshire.

The council gained around £4,414,000 from parking charges in 2016/17 at a time when – as with all councils – income is being drastically slashed by central government.

Crucially the biggest parking increases comes at the railway station north and south car parks where between Monday to Friday the charge goes up from £7 to £7.50.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has been an outspoken critic of parking charges in Stevenage for many years. Picture: Stephen McPartland Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has been an outspoken critic of parking charges in Stevenage for many years. Picture: Stephen McPartland

Another large increase is at the two Primett Road car parks behind Stevenage High Street where the fee goes up 10p, 20p or 30p depending on the time of day and duration of parking,

If you happen to park over two of the designated time slots for example 6am to 4pm and 4pm to 6am you end up paying an extra 40p. This will of course apply to many workers who park between 8am and 6pm. A typical daily charge here has therefore increased from £2.90 to £3.30.

Parking bays on Danestrete, Southgate, Marshgate, The Quadrant and Westgate increase by 10p, 20p, 40p, and 50p depending on the duration of parking. For more than five hours parking here it’s a hike of £2 – from £7 to £9.

Councillor Ralph Raynor, executive member for economy, enterprise and transport at SBC’s Labour-controlled council, said: “Car parking charges in Stevenage are tailored to the different car park users: railways station users, town centre shoppers and residents.

Car parking charges changed across Stevenage on Monday. Picture: Archant Car parking charges changed across Stevenage on Monday. Picture: Archant

“Charges for shoppers in Stevenage are comparable with other large town centres in Hertfordshire. If we are running special events in the town centre we often provide free parking and in the run up to Christmas provided ‘free after 3pm’ parking on late night shopping Thursdays to attract people into Stevenage.

“We also reinvest car parking charges into the maintenance of our car parks and this year we will be carrying out resurfacing works across the town. We have also installed CCTV at the St George’s Way multi-storey which has helped to reduce anti-social behaviour.”

The town’s Conservative MP Stephen McPartland disagreed, telling the Comet: “It is shocking Stevenage Borough Council continue with their car parking rip off which is preventing the regeneration of our town centre. They take almost £4 million a year in car parking charges, which is almost as much as they take in council tax.

“I will continue my campaign for three hours of free parking, which developers, retailers and local people tell me would increase footfall and be the first step in delivering a 21st century town centre.

“The Portas Review clearly showed that car parking charges were the biggest barrier to the regeneration of our town centres. Roaring Meg and the Old Town both have three hours of free parking and are very successful.”

But the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, Councillor Robin Parker, hit back saying introducing free parking is as realistic as “flying pigs” because taxpayers would have to pick up the cost so the council can keep funding its services.

He said: “On balance it seems fairer that users of the car parks should pay for the car parks, rather than all council tax payers, some of whom do not use them.

“In particular, the Stevenage Tory MP’s assertion that free car parking should be introduced in the town centre car parks is as realistic as flying pigs, unless he can tell SBC how to pay for the cost of doing this.

“If SBC lost its £2 million a year car park income, the SBC council tax would need to rise by about 40 per cent to make up the lost income. Is this what the MP wants?”

He added that a short-lived experiment in free parking at the town’s multi-storey car parks a couple of years ago cost council tax payers a lot of money and did not in fact increase footfall at the shops at all.

• What do you think? Email your views to news@thecomet.net or comment on the story on our website or Facebook pages.

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