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Bishop’s Stortford BID condemns East Herts Council Green Party plan to raise parking charges in town by up to 54%

The voice of the town centre traders has condemned Green Party plans to increase parking charges in Bishop’s Stortford by up to 54%.

Next Wednesday (Dec 13), East Herts Council’s executive member for environmental sustainability, Cllr Tim Hoskin (Hertford Heath and Brickendon), will attempt to push through a raft of rises at Apton Road, Basbow Lane and Elm Road car parks next April in return for a price cut at the Northgate End multi-storey.

Bishop’s Stortford BID (Business Improvement District), which represents town centre traders, has held extensive talks with Cllr Hoskin to try to persuade him to change the plans, but to no avail.

Northgate End car park
Northgate End car park

After his plans were made public late on Tuesday (Dec 5), the BID issued a blunt statement: “We appreciate the recent opportunity to engage in extensive discussions with Cllr Hoskins regarding parking within Bishop’s Stortford. This has allowed us to explain in great detail the multiple challenges our businesses and residents are currently facing in accessing the town centre for work, essential services and leisure.

“The report and proposal for a change in tariffs, scheduled for presentation at the council meeting on December 13, will not address these issues. We believe it will adversely affect trading conditions, making it even tougher for businesses and further crippling them at an already challenging time.”

Cllr Hoskin wants to increase all-day charges at Apton Road and Basbow Lane by £1.30 from £5.20 to £6.50, a 25% hike. For the hourly tariffs, charges would rise between 5% and 10% as follows: £4.60 (up 30p) for up to five hours; £3.70 (up 20p) for up to four hours; £2.80 (up 20p) for up to three hours; £2.10 (up 10p) for up to two hours and £1.10 (up 10p) for up to an hour.

Basbow Lane car park
Basbow Lane car park

The proposed charges at Elm Road would cost drivers £4.20 all day, up 60p (16.67%) from £3.60. The charge for up to five hours rockets 54.17% from £2.40 to £3.70.

At all three of these car parks, the flat rate, all-day charge on Sundays and public holidays would rise 10p to £1.60 (up 10p). No change is proposed to the 30-minute free sessions.

Some prices at Northgate End – where the 573 parking spaces, including 54 electric vehicle charging bays, opened in June last year – would fall if Cllr Hoskin’s recommendation is adopted.

There would be decreases of 19.23% for all-day parking, from £5.20 to £4.20; 13.95% for up to five hours, from £4.30 to £3.70; and 8.57% for up to four hours, from £3.50 to £3.20. The pricing for up to one, two and three hours will stay the same at £1, £2 and £2.60.

Northgate End multi-storey car park
Northgate End multi-storey car park

No changes are proposed in other East Herts towns – the Green Party strongholds of Hertford, Ware and Buntingford plus true blue Sawbridgeworth – by Cllr Hoskin.

In his report to the full council, he said the measures would reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality “through encouraging long-stay customers to use car parks positioned on the edge of town, reducing vehicle journeys, idling and space hunting in busy car parks, and congestion in the town centre roads”.

He also claimed the pricing would support residents with the cost of living “by reducing the need to use fuel driving between car parks in slow-moving congested traffic while trying to find a space”.

Green Party Cllr Tim Hoskin
Green Party Cllr Tim Hoskin

Cllr Hoskin suggested businesses would benefit by ensuring customers can park close to shops while workers could take advantage of cheaper all-day parking in Northgate End.

The BID was unconvinced: “These changes are exclusive to Bishop’s Stortford and do not apply district-wide. They are being implemented to align with the priorities of the Climate Change Strategy and emerging Air Quality Action Plan.

"The report refers to Hockerill junction as its priority, however these tariff changes will have no impact on the decision of whether cars use that junction or not.

“In our view it is draconian and not the previously promised holistic view. If the vote is successful, once again Hertford-based councillors will shape the fate of Bishop’s Stortford with little or no regard for the potential fallout.

“Plans to provide realistic alternatives are vague at best, leaving us with the impression that we are being punished for driving cars, including EVs, to go about our daily lives.

“While we understand the financial pressures the council is under, we believe that increasing the all-day parking tariff in three car parks in Bishop’s Stortford is a short-sighted way to balance the books, with potential negative effects on our town centre businesses and residents, and without clear benefits to climate change goals.

“We appreciate there is a small reduction in one car park, but this is not a suitable option for everyone.

“At this point, we are hopeful that the proposal will be refused at the full council meeting on December 13. We would ask that if anyone also disagrees with this, they contact their local councillor to make them aware of their views.”

Previously, the BID asked the council to trial a two-year pilot for town centre employees at the under-used Northgate End multi-storey. It could have saved up to 100 workers £408 a year with a £1.70 discount, cutting the daily long-stay tariff from £5.20 to £3.50. The Green Party and Lib Dems joined forces to block the deal, which was supported by the Conservatives and Labour.

Green Party Cllr Ben Crystall, leader of East Herts Council
Green Party Cllr Ben Crystall, leader of East Herts Council

The council’s leader, Cllr Ben Crystall (Green, Hertford Bengeo), said then: “We believe it can be done better.” He suggested the scheme could set a “dangerous precedent” and said Stortford should not get special treatment.

“It's far better to take a slower, more rational approach and make it the best it can be, come out with a better result. Car parking across East Herts needs to be dealt with as a whole with anomalies ironed out, so it's a similar service across the district.”

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