Parking charges still a talking point
AN increase in parking charges intended to save almost £500,000 has been rejected. Members of the North Herts District Council's Royston area committee opposed a proposed parking charge increase aimed at recouping £413,400. The plans included increasing t
AN increase in parking charges intended to save almost £500,000 has been rejected. Members of the North Herts District Council's Royston area committee opposed a proposed parking charge increase aimed at recouping £413,400. The plans included increasing the hourly parking charge from 30p to 50p and abolishing the 10p parking charge after 4pm in Royston. But Barrie Jones, head of the council's financial services, said: "It's the first increase in four years, so although it may seem like quite an excessive increase it is over four years." But councillors were not convinced, and Cllr Tony Hunter pointed out that £165,000 was generated last year through parking charges in Royston alone. "We seem to be generating close to 10 per cent increased ticket sales year-on-year, so we can predict that we should be looking at something like £180,000 next year," he said. He told members he would find it "difficult" to support large parking charge increases and thought it would damage business in the town. "I think we've got to think carefully about what we do. I think we need to support local traders," he said. Town centre manager Geraint Burnell claimed that 23 per cent of the district council's £1.8 million debt was to be recouped by increasing parking charges across North Herts. "What extra are the people who park in Royston getting for the extra that is being put on them?" he asked. Cllr Fiona Hill said: "I don't agree at all with any increase in car parking charges and think it would be totally detrimental to the work of the town centre forum." Mike Gowen, owner of the Stationary Cupboard, in the High Street, told members: "I think in Royston town centre things have significantly worsened in the last year and the future doesn't look much better. "The council seems to be celebrating the success of the scheme, but it drives all our customers to Tesco and other out-of-town stores," he said. Mr Gowen said there were currently six empty shops in the town centre and he knew of four more that would soon be empty. "We want to make it easy for people to park in the town centre and I believe the council has a duty to ensure the vitality and vibrancy of the town centre," he said. Cllr Howard Marshall said increasing parking charges would be a blow to people living outside the town centre. "As a rural councillor, residents have to park in Royston if they want to shop in Royston and I'm concerned that we haven't considered any other options. I think this is going to be very dangerous," he said. Councillors requested parking rebates for traders and agreed to look into a possible increase at the civic centre car park, which they said was heavily used by workers, not shoppers. Committee chairman Cllr Bill Davidson pushed for town centre forum proposals for parking in waiting bays in the High Street be increased from 20 minutes to 30 minutes. He also urged that existing loading bays in the High Street be changed to parking bays.