New bid to introduce free town parking

PUBLISHED: 11:11 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:53 11 May 2010

FREE one-hour parking could be on offer in Royston town centre if the proposed Royston First scheme is given the thumbs up. Other plans which could be implemented under the ambitious scheme include a new community cinema, improved policing, a shuttle bus

FREE one-hour parking could be on offer in Royston town centre if the proposed Royston First scheme is given the thumbs up.

Other plans which could be implemented under the ambitious scheme include a new community cinema, improved policing, a shuttle bus between the industrial estates and the town centre, and more incentives for retailers to come to Royston.

Businesses will vote next month on whether to approve Royston First, which would see the town become a Business Improvement District.

And at a meeting held to discuss the plans on Tuesday night, town centre manager Geraint Burnell said free parking was one measure that could be introduced to encourage shoppers into the town centre.

Mr Burnell said: "We would like to buy back the car parks from North Herts District Council and offer free parking for one hour."

He is convinced that there is "widespread support" for Royston First in the town, and was pleased to see a "cross section" of businesses attending the meeting.

Royston First would see businesses paying an extra two per cent on top of their current business rates. It is estimated that this would generate at least £900,000 over five years.

This money would then be distributed by a steering group, made up of Royston business people, to projects of their choice.

Mr Burnell outlined proposals for a community cinema, like the one which runs successfully in Saffron Walden.

He said: "There is plenty of interest in having a cinema in Royston, and it could be housed either at the town hall site, or one of the schools."

Chf Insp Geoff Camp, the senior police officer for North Hertfordshire, said that more policing could come in the form of extra officers or PCSOs, while closed circuit television cameras and ANPR machines, which read car number plates, are also options.

Chris Hollins, who advises the Government on Business Improvement Districts, described the situation as "make or break" for Royston.

He added: "My advice would be to go for it, or you will lose out big time."

Royston First chairman John Gourd of Johnson Matthey, said: "We continue to firmly believe that a 'Yes' vote is vital for the future prosperity of the town, and last night was another important step."

"The evening was a great success, and it was good to hear the support from local businesses. It is very important that the steering team continues to listen, as this is an initiative for all businesses in the area."

Voting on Royston First will take place from November 3-December 1, and ballot papers will be distributed to all businesses in Royston shortly.

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