FRUSTRATED motorists trying to park at Westminster Lodge to go to the new leisure centre or the Abbey Theatre have found themselves driving round and round in circles looking for a space.

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Although more parking will become available when the old leisure centre is demolished, such is the demand for spaces at Westminster Lodge since the new centre opened that some disheartened motorists have opted to give up and go home.

The problems have been exacerbated this week with the University of Herts graduation ceremonies taking place in the Cathedral.

At the Abbey Theatre, where the Company of Ten is putting on Blithe Spirit, there have been a number of complaints from disgruntled patrons about the shortage of parking spaces.

The theatre has been in touch with the district council about the situation and one suggestion has been that the car park at the back of the old service road could be designated purely for theatregoers on nights when a show is on.

Mike Lovelady, St Albans council’s head of legal services, admitted that parking was more limited than usual at Westminster Lodge while the demolition work on the old leisure centre was going on.

He went on: “A new community car park is to be built on the site and should be available next spring.

“During the building works for the new leisure centre, and the current demolition of the old centre, a temporary car park has been provided at the rear of the site to help alleviate the parking pressure.

“However, we are aware that finding parking can be difficult, especially when there are additional events, such as this week’s graduation ceremonies, going on in the city. We will be exploring with the various stakeholders, including the Abbey Theatre, what else can be done to help.”

There has been additional concern that zealous parking attendants would come down heavily on anyone not parked in a designated bay at Westminster Lodge despite the current problems.

Mr Lovelady said that parking was free from 6.30pm but after that time parking attendants could issue penalty notices if people parked on verges, which could cause damage particularly when the ground was wet, or on access roads which needed to be kept clear for emergency vehicles.

He confirmed that on Tuesday, seven parking tickets had been issued during the day at Westminster Lodge; five for not displaying a pay and display ticket and two for parking on grass verges. None were issued in the evening after 6.30pm.

He added: “We try to be sensitive when it comes to issuing parking notices but we do have a responsibility to deter people from damaging the grass verges, which is a particular problem in the district, and from parking on access roads, for safety reasons.”

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