Confusion over St Albans parking signs
BUSINESSMAN Paul Hargreaves has criticised St Albans council for failing to alter “confusing” parking signs on a busy city centre road which suggests visitors buy vouchers from a bookshop which closed about three years ago.
Paul, owner of Mail Boxes Etc and a member of Holywell Hill Action Group, called on the council to complete the “simple task” of providing correct parking information as with his business located on the hill, parking was critical.
A customer initially asked him the location of the bookshop, Patons, about a year ago. Paul said: “I enquired where he had seen that Patons was selling parking vouchers. He said that it was on the parking information sign on Holywell Hill. I immediately informed the council and was told by the council that the sign would be changed.
“Quite unbelievably I have had the same question again this week. No change after three years (since Patons closed). I have had a 120 per cent increase in business rates in Holywell Hill within the last five years and we get no support from the council on such a simple task.
“Parking should be directed at providing a service to shoppers and shops and not seen as just a revenue stream for the council. Because we are on the hill, we have a hard time anyway.”
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The signage was “confusing” elderly customers and new visitors to the city, he pointed out.
A council spokeswoman apologised for the error and said car park contractor NCP would immediately amend six incorrect signs.
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She said that the council agreed that all signs should have been updated as soon as parking vouchers were no longer available from Paton Books and understood that had been done: “Having checked with our contractor NCP we can only apologise for any inconvenience caused by this action not being taken.” She said that NCP had intended to change all six signs by close of business on September 22.
She also clarified Paul’s concerns about increased business rates: “Whilst the district council collects business rates, 100 per cent of it goes to central government and they are responsible for setting the rates.”
Paul also suggested that St Albans should follow a recent promotion in neighbouring Hemel Hempstead where Marlowes and Riverside shopping centres offered free parking after 3pm each Thursday during summer.
While this was an initiative of the centres rather than Dacorum Borough Council, Paul said it was a “great” way to encourage shoppers to visit the city centre and eat at restaurants “without worrying about parking charges.”
But the council spokeswoman pointed out that council-owned car parks run by NCP in the city centre were free after 6.30pm and all day Sunday throughout the year.
In addition, on Thursdays throughout December, London Road, Civic Centre basement, Gombards and Bricket Road North car parks would also be free of charge after 4pm.