Car park charges to rise again across Harpenden and St Albans

Car park charges are set to rise

Car park charges are set to rise - Credit: Archant

Charges in council-run car parks in the district are to rise to cover the cost of the installation of new pay machines.

Drovers Way car park ticket machine

Drovers Way car park ticket machine - Credit: Archant

Twenty state-of-the-art pay machines are being installed at council fee-paying car parks in St Albans and Harpenden with the work scheduled to take place in the next couple of months.

From Monday, November 2, charges will rise to help cover the cost of the new machines and other improvements such as a pay-on-exit system and new exit and entrance barriers at Drovers Way and Russell Avenue in St Albans.

Monday to Saturday rates for over a one hour stay will rise by 10p with all-day rates rising by 20p and weekly rates to increase by 70p. The Sunday all-day rate remains the same.

St Albans council extended its contract with car park operators NCP in May and it was agreed at that time that new machines and other innovations would be introduced to improve the service.

Mike Lovelady, the council’s head of legal, democratic and regulatory services, explained: “We recognised that the machines were causing issues and we have acted to improve the service for customers.

“The council is investing the money initially. Over the lifetime of the equipment the money raised is expected to pay for the investment.”

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New software will capture usage data to help manage the service, monitor performance and continue to improve it. In addition, in the event of a fault, the real-time pay machine technology will send out immediate alerts to staff so issues can be rectified quickly.

Charges in some car parks rose last year when the council changed the parking structure by designating short-stay and long-stay car parks.

Cllr Beric Read, the council’s portfolio holder with responsibility for car parks, said there had been no overall increase since April 2014 .

He went on: “We are making these major improvements to our car parks in an effort to transform the experience of car users. NCP is also making changes to some of the parking fees which will help to pay for the investment being made in the district’s car parks.

St Albans city centre manager, Richard Marrett, said that he felt parking charges were competitive at the moment and he would support a small increase to pay for new machines.

He pointed out that short stay parking in St Albans was more expensive than comparable cities and towns like Watford but charges were more in line for over two hours prking.

But he would like to see more free half hour parking spaces in the city to deter shoppers from going out of town when they only want to make a flying visit to shops.

And he also welcomed the fact that better data collection would be available to the council which could mean the reduction of charges in quieter periods. He said: “I would encourage the council to use that data to find out when low use periods are and then, for example, say they will make Tuesday mornings [traditionally a quiet time] free.”

*In a separate scheme, on-street pay and display machines at 18 locations across the district are being replaced. A review of the current on-street tariff is underway.