Council deny parking ‘blunder’ as car ban remains in place for Arsenal match

Former Hitchin Town defender Kane Smith during the 1-1 draw at Top Field last season. Photo: Peter E

Former Hitchin Town defender Kane Smith during the 1-1 draw at Top Field last season. Photo: Peter Else - Credit: Archant

A team representing Premier League giants Arsenal will pay at Top Field tomorrow night in front of another bumper crowd – but North Herts District Council are still imposing their unpopular parking ban.

Parking chaos next to Butts Close before Hitchin Town v Luton Town. Picture Layth Yousif

Parking chaos next to Butts Close before Hitchin Town v Luton Town. Picture Layth Yousif - Credit: Archant

Fans have been in uproar after the district council banned cars from using Butts Close – opposite the ground – as an overspill car park ahead of Hitchin Town’s big pre-season friendlies against nearby League Two clubs Luton Town and Stevenage.

It has been confirmed by the council that the restriction will continue for the visit of a young side representing the Gunners.

A council spokeswoman told the Comet that the ban ‘will not be relaxed’ for the Arsenal game.

Councillor Jane Grey said: “I firmly refute the suggestion suspending parking at Butts Close is in any way a blunder.

Hitchin Town club secretary and stalwart Roy Izzard after the Arsenal game. Picture: Layth Yousif

Hitchin Town club secretary and stalwart Roy Izzard after the Arsenal game. Picture: Layth Yousif - Credit: Archant


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“We do not have any responsibility to provide parking for football fans but this should not really be a problem anyway.

“We have been working for some time towards a solution that will accommodate more parking.

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“It is green space, not a car park, and allowing parking there was only ever intended as an ad hoc temporary solution.”

The council has already attracted the ire of long-suffering taxpayers through budget overspends concerning the ongoing Hitchin Town Hall and museum fiasco, the lack of action on Churchgate in the town centre, and the closing of children’s playgrounds and removal of dog waste bins while voting themselves pay rises of up to 20 per cent.

Hitchin resident and huge Arsenal fan Guy Wiseman with his two football-mad sons during the game las

Hitchin resident and huge Arsenal fan Guy Wiseman with his two football-mad sons during the game last term. Picture: Layth Yousif - Credit: Archant

Long-serving Hitchin Town stalwart Roy Izzard told the Comet: “We have never considered it our right to be allowed use of Butts Close, but the arrangement has worked really well.

“We always ensured we provided a good number of stewards to make sure parking was regulated and sensible and the general public were not put at any risk.

“We would also only use Butts Close if weather conditions were favourable, as if it was too wet there would have been a danger of damage to the surface.

“We have always shown our appreciation to the council, and as they have not charged us for the use of Butts Close we have made donations to a charitable fund of their choice.

Archant journalist Layth Yousif interviews the legendary Pat Rice. Photo: Peter Else

Archant journalist Layth Yousif interviews the legendary Pat Rice. Photo: Peter Else - Credit: Archant

“We have always had a good relationship with the council – and while we are very disappointed permission was not granted for the games with Luton and Stevenage, we accepted their decision.”

Nearly 2,000 fans attended both matches, putting pressure on surrounding streets as the overspill car park was closed. Another large crowd is expected ahead of the visit from a youthful Gunners team tomorrow evening.

Mr Izzard said: “Our biggest regret was that as a community club we are keen to avoid upsetting our neighbours.

“We were well aware that without Butts Close there was a real danger the roads and streets around the ground would be gridlocked by the upsurge in traffic.

“So while the club benefit from us using Butts Close on big occasions, the wider community also benefits.

“We hope that we can maintain our good relationship with the district council and that they will look again at the decision to stop us using Butts Close when we have a big game.”

Hitchin Town welcome back an Arsenal XI after a very enjoyable match against them last November to mark the unveiling of their new floodlights.

This time there will be a familiar face in the Arsenal dug-out, as former Hitchin player and assistant manager Ken Gillard will be alongside Kwame Ampadu as his assistant. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

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