Knebworth parking charges ‘strangling’ businesses

Cllr Alan Sleator (vice chairman), unknown resident, Cllr Rosemary Conybeare, Cllr John Bantick (cha

Cllr Alan Sleator (vice chairman), unknown resident, Cllr Rosemary Conybeare, Cllr John Bantick (chairman), resident John Jones and Cllr Steve Hemingway - Credit: Archant

Shopkeepers and a parish council are protesting against “a draconian parking scheme” which is “strangling” nearby businesses.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) introduced short-stay pay and display parking in the St Martin’s Road car park in Knebworth last year. It was previously free to park there.

Shopkeepers and Knebworth Parish Council say the charges have been driving business away from the village.

Alan Sleator, vice chairman of the parish council, said: “People in Knebworth are furious with North Herts District Council for imposing a draconian parking scheme upon us.

“The rules seem designed to maximise the number of £70 fines they can levy. For a worker on low or minimum wages, £70 represents two days pay after tax. That’s enough to tip a struggling family into financial trouble.

“These charges are driving business away from our village. Why shop locally in Knebworth and risk a £70 fine when you can drive half a mile up the road to Tesco where parking has always been free?”

Altan Hurer, owner of Coasters café on London Road in Knebworth, said: “It feels like the traffic wardens are almost targeting Knebworth. We feel like we are being victimised. It’s like they are strangling local businesses. The parking charges haven’t benefitted any shops.”

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Sharon Yorke, manager of Knebworth Tanning Studio on London Road, added: “The high street is so much quieter because people are not going to park if they have to pay. They are just going to go to Tesco. Something’s got to change.”

The parking charges are even affecting a charity shop, with Jean Mafham, manager of the Danesbury and QVM Charity Shop on London Road, saying donations and takings are down.

Mr Sleator thinks NHDC is putting its own financial interest ahead of the interests of the people of Knebworth.

“It wants to collect as much money as possible - even at the risk of damaging our community,” he said.

“Ironically, NHDC is supposed to be supporting localism. It should be encouraging as many people as possible to shop in Knebworth, not punishing them for doing so.

“Local councils exist to serve local people and protect communities, not to oppress them and use them as cash cows.”

Mr Sleator said the solution is to make parking free for the first hour. “This will protect local shopping while controlling all day commuter parking, which was the original aim of the project,” he said.

Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, said: “The introduction of short-stay pay and display parking at St Martin’s Road car park in Knebworth came into force in 2012 following consultation with local businesses and residents. It has proven to be successful in freeing up space for shoppers, thus supporting local trade.

“Similarly, a one-hour time restriction for parking on the high street has been in place for a number of years and was recently extended to include Saturdays. This is in line with the parking limit times found elsewhere in the district and was introduced to make spaces available for those wishing to visit the shops.”

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