Parking proposals assaulted by three pronged-attack

A THREE pronged attack opposing plans to charge shoppers on public holidays, and possibly evenings and weekends, was launched against the district council this week.

Councillors and campaigners slammed North Hertfordshire District Council’s proposals which could see free parking on public holidays axed in council owned car parks.

This move has sparked fears the authority may charge at evenings and weekends and a campaign opposing any such move has attracted more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of weeks.

On Tuesday protesters and Royston councillors addressed NHDC’s cabinet, slamming the authority’s proposal.

Protest organiser Clive Porter, speaking at the meeting, said: “For years this town has struggled against the odds to maintain its head above water, but is a mere shadow of its former self.

“Recently you erected signs indicating that you were proposing to extend the payable hours, and to even include Sundays and Bank Holidays.

“So even motorists calling to collect an evening meal from any of the town’s many take-aways would be affected.

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“Not only does the council appear to be happy to destroy the daytime trade, but you are eager to witness the after shopping hours business decimated as well.”

Mr Porter’s presentation was followed by fellow activist Terry Hutt who added: “The people of Hertfordshire are angry and fed up and so are the businesses.

“Shops are closing down around us - re-think before it is too late.”

The second wave of opposition came from members of Royston’s area committee with county councillors Fiona Hill and Tony Hunter laying into the proposal.

Cllr Hill said: “In our opinion introducing the proposed charges will affect the vitality and viability of Royston town centre at a time when there are proven improvements because of the popular Free After Three scheme. We feel that the retailers who open on public holidays, together with restaurants and take-aways, would all suffer.

“There’s recent evidence which shows car park ticket sales have dropped in comparison to last year, and we feel that the cost of enforcing the car parks on bank and public holidays would outweigh any revenue raised.”

Cllr Hunter argued that simple economics of enforcing the charges outweighed any revenue that may be raised.

The final protest came from inside the cabinet, when Royston councillor Peter Burt, portfolio holder for Waste, Recycling and Environment, again questioned the logic of implementing the charges and presented a series of photographs showing the lack of car park use on bank holidays.

Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, said: “We will take into account the correct process and we follow the standard process.

“The standard process for a Traffic Regulation Order is that we take into account all the feedback we have from members of the public, from area committees, from whatever sources.

“It will all be considered and a decision will be made on each car park individually, and they will look at pricing and how the pricing should be set at zero, or a charge.”

After the meeting Cllr Brindley added: “There are no proposals to introduce charging on Sundays or in the evenings.

“As for charging on bank holidays, we will take on board the views of Royston area committee, the petitions we received at Cabinet, and the comments of the two electors who spoke at Cabinet, along with all other feedback from the consultation.

“I reject the comments made suggesting the council is ignoring the needs of Royston. We continue to make significant investment in the town and strive to help local businesses and residents.”