Pay and dismay
ANGRY councillors want showdown talks over proposed increases in car park charges in Royston. They believe that a deal on parking charges has not been met after a presumed decision has been reversed. And the man being blamed is Councillor Richard Thake,
ANGRY councillors want showdown talks over proposed increases in car park charges in Royston.
They believe that a "deal" on parking charges has not been met after a presumed decision has been reversed.
And the man being blamed is Councillor Richard Thake, the transport portfolio holder on North Herts District Council.
He is seen as the villain of the piece, and members of the council's Royston area committee want him to appear for a face-to-face meeting to explain the situation.
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Members of the committee believed that the council's Cabinet had accepted proposals for car park charges which would not see changes to short-term parking arrangements.
But a councillors' briefing paper - which has been given to The Crow - says just the opposite, with suggestions that three-hour parking in The Warren car park and the Royston Town Hall car park be increased from £1.50 to £1.80.
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The briefing paper proposes, too, that short-term one-hour parking be increased from 40p to 60p.
Outraged Councillor Tony Hunter told members of the Royston area committee that he wanted to "rant" when he saw the proposals in the briefing paper.
"I believed that we walked away from a meeting of the Cabinet and that all our points had been taken on board. We will not support any increase in the cost of short-term parking," he said.
Cllr Hunter accused the Cabinet of creating proposals which seemed to be based on "magical" details.
"They seem to be saying that business in the town centre is healthy, but we are being told differently," said Cllr Hunter.
"The car parks in Royston and any increases are being used to prop up parking across the rest of the district.
"We have a situation which could see the destruction of the town centre."
Cllr Hunter said he was worried that an increase in parking charges would drive more people out of the town centre to Tesco, where an expansion project is now taking shape.
If the increased parking charges were introduced, then Cllr Hunter said people should boycott using the car parks.
The new proposals would see Royston car parks provide an "estimated income increase" of £64,634, says the briefing paper.
The paper added that an increase in car park charges was needed for the district council "in order to meet the savings targets" approved in the 2006-07 budget.
Cllr Fiona Hill, who is now chairman of the Royston area committee, said she left the Cabinet meeting believing that the Royston councillors had succeeded in putting their case.
She said she was "deeply disappointed" that there had seemed to be an about-turn.
"It looks like our views have been ignored," she said.
"If this is approved then it is another nail in the coffin for the town centre."
And Cllr Howard Marshall said: "It appears to be an act of diminishing returns, with the outcome being of just driving people into the arms of Tesco."
He added that it was a "serious matter".
Cllr F John Smith, leader of the council, said a meeting with Cllr Thake would give members the opportunity to "revisit the whole issue".
The committee decided that Cllr Thake should attend a meeting to explain the car parking charges and in the meantime an increase to any charges should be shelved.