Council cuts free parking in North Herts

CHARGES for evening, weekend and bank holiday parking could be put in place at a number of council-owned car parks in North Hertfordshire.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) is looking at introducing charges to 11 car parks across Hitchin and Letchworth GC on bank holidays.

The council could also implement charges for evenings and weekends at a later point due to a technical change it plans to make, although there are no immediate plans for this.

Alan Doggett, chairman of Hitchin Chamber of Commerce, said: “There does not appear to have been any consultation with local groups. In an economic climate acknowledged as being difficult for many businesses and individuals, what are the reasons to hit both of these groups?

“What would be done with this extra income? We should be looking to encourage visitors to our town and this will not achieve this.

“The evening culture in Hitchin is buoyant and well supported. Will these changes affect trade?”

The proposals apply to Bancroft, Biggin Lane, Christchurch, Lairage multi-storey, Portmill Lane East, Portmill Lane West, St Mary’s Square and Woodside in Hitchin, and Garden Square multi-storey, Hillshott and Town Hall in Letchworth GC.

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Keith Hoskins, Hitchin town centre manager, told The Comet: “To see an increase in parking fees whether that is incremental or by extending periods of time which charges apply is not right. Some businesses are hanging on by their finger tips as it is.

“I think it’s wrong on many fronts. It’s wrong economically and commercially. It’s wrong environmentally because people may drive elsewhere.

“How does it work when you’ve got a Sunday congregation at St Mary’s Church or people going to the Queen Mother Theatre?

“Businesses need our help at the moment and we should be giving it to them.”

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, reiterated that the council is only currently looking to charge on bank holidays, and said that car parks would have to be reviewed and consulted on individually before introducing any weekend and evening charges at a later date.

He added: “Bank holidays are treated as normal shopping days by many residents and, as such, the same parking controls are required. Most local authorities charge and NHDC is coming into line with our neighbours.

“Initially, the charges for evenings and Sundays will be set at zero for all car parks. Over the next few years we will be conducting parking reviews in Hitchin, Letchworth and Royston and, where appropriate, the charge may be reviewed.”

Changes are also expected for parking in Baldock, with plans to charge for one car park which is currently free to use.

NHDC said that, following a consultation with the Baldock Area Committee, it would look to make the changes at Twitchell car park.

Cllr Brindley added: “It was agreed that a reasonable charge could be levied for medium and long stay use of the car park to help meet the cost of improvements and increased demand for parking management in Baldock.

“The council has also been proactive in seeking to secure additional free parking space for town centre users at Tesco as well as an extension to the station car park.

“We will also look at ways in which more effective use may be made of parking in the High Street least used by short stay parking. We plan to undertake formal consultation on these proposals later this year.”