Anger at car park fee rise

A council has refused to halt increased car park charges in Letchworth GC despite a warning it could threaten businesses during the credit crunch. The warning came from the Letchworth Garden City Town Centre Partnership (LGCTCP) that represents town centr

A council has refused to halt increased car park charges in Letchworth GC despite a warning it could threaten businesses during the credit crunch.

The warning came from the Letchworth Garden City Town Centre Partnership (LGCTCP) that represents town centre businesses, 24 hours before North Herts District Council (NHDC) raised car park charges yesterday morning (Wednesday) in Letchworth GC as well as Hitchin for the first time in three years to generate extra income of around �50,000.

Baldock has escaped the rises because of the enhancement scheme and in Royston charges remain unchanged because they were reviewed in 2007.

But the appeal fell on deaf ears with Cllr Richard Thake, portfolio holder for planning and transport, saying: "Even with new charges, North Herts is still cheaper than neighbouring towns and than most private car parks."

The appeal to scrap the car park rate hike in Letchworth GC came from LGCTP chairman Hugh Harper.

"I known the rise is only pence but people are cutting back every penny they can to save money in the recession and to ask them to pay more for parking could push them away from our town centre putting more businesses at risk from closure," said Mr Harper.

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"We are appealing for a reprieve against these rises to help hard hit businesses battle through the recession. Our members are under enormous pressure and an increase in car park charges will intensify that pressure.

"A body blow like this could send more business to the wall.

"We are hoping councillors will have a re-think on these proposals and give town centre retailers a lifeline.

"Our members are working their socks off to attract and keep customers. We recognise the council is under severe pressure themselves, but we hope councillors who represent wards in the town will persuade their colleagues that now is not the time to impose further burdens on our town centre traders."

Supporting the LGCTCP push to abolish the new charges is Mike Newman, owner of Arena Stationers in Arena Parade who said: "It is badly timed this rise. We want Letchworth GC to be the town centre of choice for shoppers and when they hear about increased parking charges they will be put off.

"NHDC should seriously think about delaying any increase in charges until the end of the recession. Everyone's budget is under pressure but we must encourage people here, not frighten them off.

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