Parking charges increased by 15 pc across St Albans district

Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Archant

Civic Centre Car Park. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Have St Albans Lib Dems declared war on motorists? That's the startling claim made by the Tory opposition leader in the wake of a hike in council parking charges.

The administration at the district council (SADC) has voted for an increase of over 15 per cent across the board to ensure that "through our permit and on-street pricing, that vehicle ownership is not seen as more economical than using sustainable transport".

Motorists will have to pay for car parks at weekends and bank holidays and can no longer buy cheaper monthly and quarterly tickets. There will be no free or cheap parking for short stays, just a minimum fee of £1.50.

The move has been condemned by Conservative group leader Cllr Mary Maynard, who believes it will not only hit motorists in their pockets at a time when the cost of living is soaring, but could result in potential customers shopping elsewhere.

She said: "It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Liberal Democrats have declared war on motorists.  First, they close key routes through St Albans to discourage cars, now they are imposing whopping 15 per cent plus increases in charges.

"These increases will hit two groups hardest. The first is our High Street businesses, who are already suffering from a 20 per cent drop in footfall, mainly due to the Lib Dem road closures, and this may be the nail in the coffin if people decide it costs to much to park and may as well go online.

"The second is the workers who run our shops and deliver key services. They have been particularly targeted, with workman’s daily permits going up by 126%.

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"Many of the shop workers are women, on low incomes, time poor, with childcare responsibilities and dependent on their cars. These increases could tip the economic balance and force them out of their jobs, putting even more pressure on retailers. Councillors also get free parking, so none of this will impact them."

Cllr Anthony Rowlands, chair of SADC's Public Realm Committee, which voted through the increases, said: “We have managed to keep car parking charges at the same level for five years.

“However, that is not sustainable, especially with inflation rising so sharply, and we feel we have no option but to make some changes in order to maintain this important public service.

“Inflation since 2017 has been around 15% and we are proposing increases to catch up with that figure.

“It will mean, for example, an all-day visitor’s parking voucher in a controlled parking zone increasing from £1.30 to £1.50. This still provides a cost-effective way for our residents to cater for their visitors.

“As part of our pricing review, we have also been looking at ways to encourage the reduction of emissions as we tackle the climate emergency.

“To meet these objectives, we are planning to introduce prices for resident parking permits that are based on emissions, promoting the use the of low emission vehicles. This will be phased in over the next two years.

“At our city centre car parks, we are proposing an increase in the minimum stay from 30 minutes to one hour with a £1.50 charge in line with other local authorities.

“We’ve capped the price of longer stays to ensure our car parks remain competitive compared with private ones. For example, a four hour stay will be £5, £1.50 less than The Maltings.

“I appreciate that no one likes to pay more, but I hope our residents will understand that we had no choice but to make these changes given the jump in inflation and that we have also taken the opportunity of a price review to support other objectives such as reducing emissions.”

What do you think about the increases in car parking charges? Let us know how you feel about the measures and email hertsad@archant.co.uk with your comments.