Stortford business leaders voice concerns about Sustainable Travel Town status bid
Proposals which would remove any free parking from Bishop's Stortford's commercial centre are causing concern for traders.
The town is one of three in East Herts, along with Ware and Hertford, bidding to become a designated Sustainable Travel Town under a scheme run by Herts County Council, which is discouraging use of private vehicles.
All three submissions have won the backing, in principle, of East Herts Council's executive, despite a warning that amendments to its parking enforcement, charges and spatial planning policies would be required if the bids are successful.
Bishop's Stortford's Cllr Graham McAndrew, who is a county and district councillor, presented a report to EHC cabinet colleagues explaining how Sustainable Travel Town status includes conditions that there is no free parking in town centres and no net gain in parking spaces both on- and off-street.
District councils like East Herts must also demonstrate how existing parking restrictions will be enforced and support the implementation of new restrictions where these will make conditions more attractive for pedestrians, cyclists or buses.
As the planning authority, it should "deliver car-free development wherever possible and reduce parking standards in all other new developments where it can be clearly demonstrated that car-free cannot be delivered".
Cllr McAndrew conceded that "businesses may see the removal of free parking in the town centres as a barrier to growth" but extra charges could also benefit the council's bottom line.
Gina Thomas, manager of Bishop's Stortford BID (Business Investment District) which represents town centre shops and services, said: "The overall aim of being a more sustainable town is certainly a great aspiration for us to work towards and, if done correctly, we would be happy to support.
"However, what must come first is the infrastructure to provide alternative sustainable travel options for people before any parking options are removed or limited. We await more details on what the plan is for Bishop's Stortford."
The BID is a member of the Shaping Stortford steering group, which is advancing the proposals. Other groups represented include the town, district and county councils, Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation and residents.
Herts County Council is expected to announce its list of successful applicants from 10 bidders before the end of the year.