Council savaged for refusing to rule out parking charges in Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 17:02 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:14 21 November 2017

The Common Car Park in Hatfield, where the council will build its multi-storey car park. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council

The Common Car Park in Hatfield, where the council will build its multi-storey car park. Picture credit: Welwyn Hatfield Council

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An explosive row erupted over the Hatfield multi-storey car park plans after officials refused to rule out introducing charges.

Labour councillor John Fitzpatrick. Labour councillor John Fitzpatrick.

The local authority announced the plans last week, which it said would unlock space currently occupied by ground-level car parks for additional retail and housing.

However, at Monday’s council meeting opposition members attacked the Conservatives over their failure to guarantee the town’s free parking would not be scrapped.

“We are in danger of you letting us down again,” said Labour councillor John Fitzpatrick.

“A unique selling point of our town centre is free parking, a town centre that has suffered year on year, and you’re going to take that away too.”

Labour Cllr Maureen Cook. Labour Cllr Maureen Cook.

Labour representative for Hatfield Central, Maureen Cook, stressed that not charging for parking was the town’s only advantage over neighbouring WGC and St Albans.

She added: “I have been on the Hatfield Town Centre Forum ever since it was formed and I have said at countless meetings that you charge for parking in Hatfield over my dead body. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

A planning application is expected to be submitted next year, with construction earmarked to start in winter 2018.

The 600-space structure will be built on The Common car park for £6million – £4.8million of which will be funded by the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Hatfield mayor James Broach. Picture credit: Mark Lampert. Hatfield mayor James Broach. Picture credit: Mark Lampert.

Hatfield mayor councillor James Broach said: “I have to say only a council led by councillor Dean and the dream team could plan to spend £6million on parking and get it this badly wrong.

“For £6million you should be guaranteeing free parking for visitors to the town centre to encourage them to come to the town centre.”

However, Tory leader John Dean fiercely defended the local authority’s commitment to Hatfield, pointing to £15million that had already been invested in regenerating the town.

He also said the multi-storey project was designed to improve growth, as well as accommodate the related population increase, which would in turn encourage residents to spend their money locally.

John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council

“I would have thought you wanted to encourage that, but no,” he added. “You are only ever interested in talking Hatfield down, you have been doing it for years and you do not stop.

“Even your new members, members like the mayor of the town council, does nothing but talk his town down. What a disgrace.”

Parking charges, Mr Dean added, were in place in WGC and did not deter people from shopping there, but he stressed it was not the time to make a decision for Hatfield.

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