Town sends strong message to Letchworth councillors: Stop using Hitchin as a cash cow

NHDC offices in Gernon Road while their main site is being renovated.

NHDC offices in Gernon Road while their main site is being renovated. - Credit: Archant

Resentment is growing in Hitchin as the town is set to yet again be used as a cash cow by North Herts District Council as the result of potential parking hikes.

The latest fears follow a review of the council’s parking strategy in which it is widely tipped will see Hitchin’s car parking charges increase.

Although no decisions have yet been made, the options which will be considered include weekend, evening and bank holiday charging.

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins is wary of the proposals as they may not see a level playing field in comparison with other towns in the district.

He said: “There’s a huge discontent Hitchin gets the rough end of the pineapple yet again – we contribute the lion’s share of revenue for parking charges and yet see little benefit. I think it would be legitimate to ask where all the income is spent after all we are told it can only be spent on parking initiatives and enforcement.

“It’s not a level playing field – as the Letchworth Heritage Foundation massively subsidise the cost of parking in Letchworth as they control the most car parking spaces.

“While Letchworth councillors may shrug their shoulders and say its their prerogative as a private operator, it will at some point start to make a bigger impact on us here. Maybe we should suggest local control of car parks.

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“If it’s going to be a cash cow, then at least let Hitchin benefit from the cash.”

A review of the council’s parking strategy is currently underway – intended to save between £100k and £300k. However, this is yet to be confirmed and will be subject to the outcome of the parking strategy which is expected to be reported to cabinet in the spring.

Letchworth South East councillor Julian Cunningham, who is also executive member for transport said: “Government cuts mean we’ll make challenging decisions on finding further efficiencies. Any changes would be subject to full consultation with the council’s area committees and local town centre managers.

“The additional revenue plans to be spent on supporting transport facilities within the district.”

There has also been concerns raised about the impact of raising parking charges in the evening and weekends and Bank Holidays would have on young people on low wages who work at night.

With the success of Hitchin’s nighttime economy fears are growing people will be charged out of working, shopping and living in the centre of the town.

Keith added: “Measures need to be put in place to assist employees parking – retail is notoriously minimum wage and those who work in the industry often come from further afield as they can’t afford to live in Hitchin.

“Evening charging should be avoided – low paid staff need to have their cars close to work for late night finishing.”