Anger over Hitchin school parking arrangements

Samuel Lucas School

Samuel Lucas School - Credit: Archant

AN UNPOPULAR school expansion has been hit by further controversy after it emerged parents will be able to park for free at a prime town centre car park, while everyone else is forced to pay.

Residents have criticised the scheme, which will come into effect once Samuel Lucas JMI in Hitchin expands this September.

The scheme, a condition of the planning approval given by Herts County Council last week, will see 50 spaces at Lairage multi-storey reserved for parents dropping their children off for school.

North Herts District Council, which operates the car park in Bedford Road, will issue the permits for free, to the anger of some residents.

One resident, Robin Dartington, who has opposed the expansion from the beginning, said: “This further turn-up in the Samuel Lucas saga is really scandalous.

“What can possibly justify giving such privileges to the parents of one particular school at such high cost to taxpayers?”

Residents are calling for the district council – which usually charges more than £600 for an annual ticket at the multi-storey – to pull the plug on its agreement.

Most Read

That would spell the end for the expansion, which cannot go ahead unless the “park and stride” agreement is in force.

Chairman of the Keep Hitchin Special group Chris Parker said: “Who gave North Herts District Council the right to give away, for free, prime town centre car parking which is valued by people working or shopping in the town?

“This agreement is being made by way of a licence to be reviewed annually but is to be made available for the life of the extended school so how can it be terminated?”

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins also raised concerns.

“It’s a valid point. We are supposed to be encouraging people walking to school,” he said.

“I’ve had some comments back from people asking why this is being done. Why is it ok for one school to use the car park and others to have to make their own arrangements?”

New buildings and playing fields to accommodate an eventual influx of 192 pupils at the school in Gaping Lane are among the works set to take place.

Parents will be able to park at the multi-storey Monday to Friday during term-time between the hours of 8.30am and 9.30am and 2.45pm and 3.45pm.

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, said: “Park and Stride initiatives are a popular measure used throughout the UK to deal with transport issues near schools.

“We see this as a positive step to help ease traffic congestion and improve safety at the school gates, and an excellent example of joined up working which benefits both school users and local Hitchin residents.”

A county council spokesman said: “This (will) allow parents to safely walk their children from the multi-storey car park to the school, rather than driving them to school, and will help to reduce congestion around the main school entrance and adjoining residential roads.

“Park and stride schemes are implemented in a number of areas across the county, as schools are encouraged to explore sustainable modes of transport.”