Hitchin parking permits forcing out town centre workers

RESIDENT parking permits have been introduced in a network of roads near a town centre, “forcing out” those who used to park there for work.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) enforced the permits in Hitchin’s Hollow Lane, St Andrew’s Place and Lyle’s Row at the end of last month.

It means that residents have to pay �84 a year to park outside their own homes, and people who used to park there and walk into work having to find somewhere else or face paying �3.50 a day in a car park.

There are fears that town centre businesses and employees will suffer as a result, with claims also that the residents’ spaces are not being utilised.

Mike Inns, director at Mixed Images in the High Street, has been calling on the council to resolve the problem.

He is suggesting that – should the permits have to remain – they are made available to some workers for the same price as residents.

“The people who run the shops, or work there, cannot afford �3.50 a day. You’re paying that for the privilege of coming to work for very little return,” he told the Comet.

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“Those people are commuting in, so they have huge petrol costs and if they are younger people, their insurance is phenomenally high. At some point, there’s no reason to come to work because you are not getting enough out of it. People may just not bother and end up going on the dole instead.

“They (the council) are trying to drive people in these car parks to pay these high rates, but they are not considering they are killing off the people that are keeping this town alive – they are not seeing the bigger picture. This is a tax that’s been levied on employees overnight.”

He added: “I park up at 6.30am, and even then there are people parked up waiting in their cars, obviously having got there early so they can get a space.

“People also end up parking in other areas not designed for it. It is just creating a problem elsewhere.”

The enforcement comes at a time when Hitchin BID (business improvement district) is in talks with NHDC in an attempt to introduce off-peak charges at some town centre car parks.

Keith Hoskins, town centre manager, said: “Obviously we are keen to encourage shoppers but there’s also the problem of people who work in the town to Monday to Friday who are, invariably, on lower pay and minimum wage.

“They can’t afford to pay the �580 for an annual permit up front and businesses can’t advance that amount towards their staff because they are struggling themselves.

“We are in dialogue with the local authority on these issues and hopefully we can make some progress.”

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of the NHDC, said: “Parking issues in St Andrew’s Place, Lyle’s Row and Hollow Lane had been identified over a number of years, and following consultation, residents parking permits were introduced at the end of July.

“When looking at the issue of parking, we always try to balance the needs of different people using the town, whether they are living, working or shopping in Hitchin. This is why, in Hollow Lane, for example, there is a mixture of unrestricted parking on one side of the road, and residents permit parking, including parking for up to two hours for non-residents, on the other side.

“The scheme is very new and we will be monitoring the new arrangements over a period of time to assess how it is being used.”