Hitchin car park charges consultation extended after pressure from campaigners

St Mary's Square car park in Hitchin.

St Mary's Square car park in Hitchin. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

A council which proposes to charge for evening and weekend parking in Hitchin has extended its consultation after pressure from campaigners.

A petition calling for the public to have their say on plans to introduce more parking charges in the town amassed more than 2,000 signatures – less than 24 hours before a consultation with town representatives was set to close on Friday.

Prior to the deadline, Councillor Julian Cunningham has announced the consultation will be extended.

Mr Cunningham, who is responsible for policy, transport and green issues at North Herts District Council, said: “Following a formal request from Hitchin Initiative and in agreement with the leader of the council Lynda Needham, I have agreed to extend the consultation period on the introduction of evening and Sunday parking charges and the timings of such charges in Hitchin for a further four-week period until October 17.

“Once we have gathered the views of the town centre management and members of the Hitchin area committee we can make the appropriate decisions on the best way forward.”

NHDC plan to introduce a new evening and overnight charge from 6pm-8am, as well as a Sunday charge, from November.

Daytime charges will also increase depending on length of stay and location, but the charge of £1 for one hour of parking will remain in place at all car parks.

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The proposed changes, which exclude bank holidays, are set to be trialled until April 2015 at all short-stay car parks in Hitchin.

Last week the North Herts Labour Group criticised the Conservative-led council’s proposals to introduce the charges in the town without a formal public consultation.

Councillor Deborah Segalini, vice chairman of Hitchin area committee and secretary of the North Herts Labour Group, said: “We are delighted that the council has seen sense and given us an extension on the consultation so that we can put forward alternative ideas. Councillors and the Hitchin town centre management will discuss the ideas and will submit these to the council.”

Mike Clarke, chairman of Hitchin Forum, said: “Hitchin Forum is very pleased that the council has extended the consultation time and hope that is sufficient for a review by Hitchin Initiative and the town centre management team and also the Hitchin Committee to properly examine the proposals put forward by NHDC. Hitchin Initiative has asked for more information and we hope that will be delivered quickly.”

Hitchin town centre manger Keith Hoskins said: “We welcome the extension and have asked the council to provide us with up-to date figures so that we can put forward our proposals. We have asked for extensive information, for example how much the council expect to make from the increase in charges.”

For more reaction, see letters, page 18.