On-street parking charges considered in Hitchin

THE issue of parking in Hitchin was brought up yesterday (Tuesday), with the possibility of introducing charges for on-street parking around the town centre aired by a council.

The suggestion, which was made in a council report by North Herts District Council (NHDC) officers, was discussed at an area committee on Tuesday, with councillors seemingly split on the idea.

Cllr Paul Clark, who is also vice-chairman of the committee, was cautious about introducing it.

He said: “I don’t think we should have on-street charges on core or peripheral streets. We want footfall in the town, whether that’s people coming in for half and hour of five or six hours.

“A lot of people who want to pop into town briefly don’t want to have to fiddle with change.

“You would also have to consider the income it would generate against the cost of enforcement. You’d have to increase enforcement.”

Cllr Joan Kirby suggested the possibility of a scheme, where residents would get their money back if they visited the town’s shops.

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She said: “Could we not try and involve shops where we can buy a ticket and spend a certain amount, say �5, to get the car park money back?

“If you’re going to lump a fee for town parking, people won’t come.”

The areas highlighted for consideration for charging included Portmill Lane, Biggin Lane, Hollow Lane, Queen Street and Park Street.

Committee members were not asked to make a recommendation, but to comment and debate the idea.

Cllr Richard Thake toyed with the idea of on-street parking charges.

He said: “There are those who would take the view that this is a cash cow and NHDC are milking it for all they get.

“I would rather charge a lot of people a small amount of money than a few people a large amount of money. People who park in car parks are subsidising people who park free of charge on street. There’s the Tesco view of ‘stack them high and sell them cheap’.”

NHDC transport policy officer, Simon Young, also highlighted the subsidy argument. He said: “People who use off-streets are subsidising that,” adding that “there would be additional enforcement costs.”

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins disagreed with Mr Young and Cllr Thake’s argument. He said: “It’s always a contentious issue, particularly in the current climate.

“I’m not sure about the subsidies point. I pay council tax, but there are lots of council services I don’t use. I accept that.

“I would suggest the subsidies argument is not quite as cut and dry as suggested.”

Discussions on bank holiday, evening and weekend parking also cropped up.

A public consultation, headed by NHDC, recently ended, with 44 objections and 287 petition signatures received in the town, and 65 objections and 1,800 signatures district wide.

NHDC said while the consultation was ongoing that it had no immediate plans to introduce charges in Hitchin or elsewhere in the district.

Worries were conveyed at the meeting about the impact it would have on those who use churches and theatres.