'Suicidal' parking hikes hit North Herts shoppers

SUICIDAL car parking hikes will hit shoppers in North Herts after councillors approved increases last week. The rises, agreed at a meeting of the full North Herts District Council on Thursday, will see charges go up substantially from April in some cou

'SUICIDAL' car parking hikes will hit shoppers in North Herts after councillors approved increases last week.

The rises, agreed at a meeting of the full North Herts District Council on Thursday, will see charges go up substantially from April in some council run car parks.

In Hitchin, short-term parking for up to one hour will increase to �1 and two hours to �1.50 at seven of the eight council car parks, a jump of almost 50 per cent at some. Three hour parking has gone up by up to 20p to �2.50 at most locations and four hours will cost up to �4.

Letchworth GC is a mixed bag, with some increases and some falls. Up to one hour, drivers will pay 50p, 10p less at four of the town's five car parks, but if they stay up to two hours, will pay �1, an extra 20p on current prices. The town hall car park fees have gone up from 70p to �1 for one hour and from 90p to �1.50 for two. Longer term parking will generally go up - between 10p and 30p.


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Drivers who use council car parks in Baldock and Knebworth will see no changes at present.

The hikes have caused concern in the businesses community, fearing the increases will push shoppers away from town centres.

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Hitchin chamber of commerce chairman, Alan Doggett, said the rises will hurt business still struggling in the recession.

"I think it's ridiculous. It's just suicidal. You're pushing people to out of town shops. They should be encouraging people to come here. It will be cheaper to go to the leisure park in Stevenage, where there is loads of free parking than to get a few bits in town. Are these people living in the real world?"

A council spokesman said the council is investing �1.1million to improve its car parks over the next three years including new signage, lighting and ramp heating at the Lairage multi story in Hitchin. As well as a phone payment system in Letchworth GC for drivers who do not have change, while fees have been set to minimise the amount of change needed.

Tom Brindley, NHDC portfolio holder for transport, said: "This substantial investment in parking will encourage people to keep coming to Hitchin, which has so much to offer. The council needs to support local businesses by making sure the town's facilities remain attractive and user-friendly. "We have not increased the price of season tickets and we have left parking free on Sundays and in the evenings. There is also a wide range of free on-street parking available.

"The council's charges remain very competitive compared with private car parks in the town."

At the same meeting councillors rubber stamped a 1.5 per cent rise in council tax. The increase will see the tax on a Band D property go up by 6p a week to �3.78 from April.

Councillor Terry Hone, finance portfolio holder, said the rise was regrettable, but necessary to help meet a �1m budget deficit this year, caused by cuts in interest rates and government funding.

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