Report of the Chief Executive setting out proposed parking restrictions for the new multi-storey car park, Kennelwood Lane car park and Dog Kennel Lane car park; including the outcome of the informal and statutory consultation.
The Panel considered the report of the Chief Executive on the introduction of parking restriction, in Town Centre car parks, Hatfield. The report noted that the new multi-story car park (MSCP) is part of the Hatfield Renewal Partnership proposals - a partnership of key local authorities, landowners and educational institutions who came together to develop a shared vision and plan for the Town's long-term regeneration. The build costs of the multi-storey were part funded by a £4.8m contribution from the Local Enterprise Partnership, recognising the part it will play in wider regeneration. These wider plans would boost the local economy, helping the Council to attract a better mix of new shops and businesses by making the Town centre a busier, more vibrant place to spend time.
Once opened, the MSCP will be managed by Parking Services, in line with other car parks across the Borough. This report set out the proposed parking restrictions for the new MSCP, Kennelwood Lane and Dog Kennel Lane Car Parks, including the outcome of the informal and statutory consultation.
Hatfield Town Centre is currently undergoing a wide regeneration programme. As part of the introduction of restrictions in the MSCP, to make parking easier to promote and ensure that there is a consistent approach, charges to restrictions are proposed to support parking provision for businesses, residents and visitors to the Town. Businesses have requested a more flexible long stay options.
As part of the consultation, notices had been placed around the Town and letter sent out to residents and traders, which was backed up by an email. The Parking Team carried out a consultation with the agreement of the Hatfield Town Centre Regeneration Board. The survey carried out with local businesses was to gauge their views on their perceived parking challenges in the Town Centre. Ward Councillors and the Police had been consulted and no objections had been received from them. 109 business contacts were contacted via email, and 57 separate business responses were received. This survey identified that 63% of responses said employees have a problem finding a parking space. 85% said their customers rely upon car parks. 17.5% said customers needed to park for more than 3 hours. When asked if there should be a minimum free period of parking 12% said 4 hours or more, with the rest saying 3 hours or less or no free period. With 95% stating they would want to see free parking in the evenings and on Sundays.
In terms of the objections received, there were 28 objections pertaining to the proposals throughout Hatfield Car Parks (Appendix A), of which 18 related solely to the price of the season tickets. The other objections also highlighted season ticket prices along with other concerns. There were 11 objections from two estate agent businesses located within Market Place.
The following points were raised and discussed:
· A comment was made by a Member that this was the first time he had seen the objections, as in the past they have only been told about the objection received.
· A Member felt that the car park was poorly planned from the beginning and raised the points highlighted within the report on how the car park’s operational costs would be met. He mentioned that the Council did not know about the costs at the time. It was noted that at a planning permission stage there is no requirement for cost and charges of a car park to be advertised at the time. It was highlighted that some Members had been against the erection of the Multi Storey Car Park from the onset. Reference was made to item 21 within the objections table relating to prevention of traffic congestion in the Town Centre. He added that Hatfield Town Centre had always had free marking and stating that the Council is introducing free parking was improper. If the Council had not built upon the car parks in the Town Centre there would not be the issues that are being raised. Item/comment 24 was mentioned relating to Link Drive and its use.
· The Member also made reference to Lemsford Road and the number of vehicles which will be using that road and its impact. In his opinion there was nothing in the report that indicated that the situation/issues raised would be resolved.
· He made reference to the public question from J. Warren in respect of NHS workers who are the largest users of the car parks. Although NHS workers could receive free parking in the Town Centre through the use of COVID parking passes, he felt that this would not be indefinite. He proposed that NHS worker get a permit at the current fee of £50 and that it remains at £50 to support the NHS workers. He mentioned the price of hospital parking fee and its impact on NHS staff. The proposal was seconded to support the NHS workers with offering a £50 permit fee per annum. It was felt that three free hours was not sufficient for some elderly residents to shop and make the necessary visits into the Town Centre. It was mentioned that previously there was a 3-hour limit. Moving vehicles around to avoid paying car parking fees was not always an option for some residents. All day charge of £6.50 was seen as extortionate. These charges may further reduce trade in the Town Centre.
· A question was raised by a Member pertaining to the number of residents relying on the car parking spaces, especially those residing in flats the car park space may be their only parking option. The Officer explained that there are 228 spaces at present and there are plans for further regeneration of the Town Centre. The parking spaces are not assigned to residential users. With the expansion of the Town it was felt that car parking should be taken into account.
· A further question was raised in respect of pay and display service in car parks and whether there is an alternative method to pay for parking such as the use of ANPR. One of the issues raised was that sometimes the pay and display machines are out of order and this causes problems for users. The Officer explained that the Government will not allow the Council to use ANPR, as in some cases the ticket issued arrives several days later and this does not allow the vehicle owner to check signage. The parking tickets issued by wardens need to be displayed at the time of the offense. This allows the user to check the times/limits displayed on site. When the new parking machines are fully operational in May, there will be help available on site to show people how to use them and how it works.
· It was felt that car parks need to be managed to ensure that sufficient parking is available for shoppers and not have commuters parking for free all day therefore a charge helps.
· It is the cheapest car park in Hertfordshire. The car park has not been busy due to Coronavirus impact with many workers being furloughed or working from home.
· The fees and charges had been agreed at full Council in February 2021.
· Clarification was sought on the multi zone permit system, which allows care providers parking within resident parking permit zones. The Member’s understanding was that care providers had a permit which allows them to park within multiple zones within the Borough. He suggested that all care providers; including NHS staff be incorporated within this scheme, which would be a simpler way to provide parking within residential permit parking zones. It would save them having to buy a £50 permit, as they would be eligible to park in residential parking zones as care providers. It would be rewarding them for their services. Some NHS worker may not be aware that they are eligible for such permits. The Officer explained that NHS workers can have free parking across the Council’s car parks if they have been given a COVID parking pass by their employer. The £20 health care provider permits is different to this as it allows any health care provider to purchase these permits and park in residents parking zones when they are making home visits. It was noted that there had been incidents whereby these permits have been misused. Unfortunately, the health providers can only use these permits to visit their patients in their homes and do not allow them to park and then go to work at their practice, for example.
· It was also raised that Councillors should qualify for similar parking facilities/permits as care workers, as they need to meet their constituents. It was agreed that this would be investigated by Officers.
A discussion ensued on whether it would be possible to include the proposal of £50 parking permit fee for NHS staff, as a recommendation from this Panel to Cabinet. It was noted that fees and charges had been confirmed via Cabinet and full Council and that it would not be possible to introduce such a fee at this point but could be considered at a later date. Members were advised that it would not be possible to rescind the Council’s decision on fees and charges for six months. A brief discussion took place on whether the Panel could make such recommendations at this point. It was agreed that the Panel votes on the recommendations as tabled and that Cabinet could consider the proposal of introducing a £50 fee for NHS workers at a later date through the Council’s process. The Member asked if there was a time frame for a paper to be considered in terms of the introduction of the proposed fee, as the pandemic would be over and NHS staff would be forced to pay the increased parking fee. It was agreed that a paper would be presented to Cabinet at the earliest opportunity for consideration of the proposal.
(6 for, 2 against and 3 abstentions)
1. That the Panel considers the case for the creation of the “The Borough of Welwyn Hatfield (Various Car Parks, Hatfield) Off-Street Parking Places) Order 2021” (the Order) and recommends that Cabinet agrees to proceed with the creation of the Order as advertised.
2. In making the above recommendation, the Panel considers the objections received as well as the issues raised in paragraph 15 of this report, relating to Equality and Diversity considerations.