Politician blasts Dacorum Borough Council for using Berkhamsted’s car parks as a cash cow for its coffers

Berkhamsted Town Councillor Tom Ritchie.
Berkhamsted Town Councillor Tom Ritchie.

Berkhamsted is being used as a ‘cash cow’ to make money for Dacorum Borough Council, one of the town’s politicians said yesterday.

Tom Ritchie spoke out after it was announced that the area’s parking charges could be increased by up to 100 per cent.

The town councillor said: “We have a very thriving High Street in Berkhamsted and I am just concerned that we are milking the cash cow of Berkhamsted for Dacorum.

“Some of the charges in Hemel Hempstead are actually going down – they are introducing a half-hour rate, because they said an hour was too long.”

He spoke out at a meeting of the town council on Monday, but fellow councillor Julie Laws said Hemel Hempstead’s ‘difficult High Street’ needs more help than Berkhamsted’s.

The new half-hour charge of 40p at Hemel Hempstead’s Water Gardens car park would aim to encourage more people to shop in the town.

As well as being a town councillor, Julie Laws is the portfolio holder for environment and sustainability on Dacorum Borough Council. The fee increases were suggested in a report, written on her behalf, for the borough council’s cabinet.

The report suggests the cost of short-stay on-street parking in Berkhamsted High Street should double – so shoppers have to pay £1 for up to an hour.

This website previously reported that use of nearby car parks in St John’s Well Lane and Lower Kings Road for up to four hours will rise by 70p to £2.50.

Parking there would rise by 50p to £1.90 for up to three hours, by 20p to £1.20 for up to two hours and by 10p to 60p for up to an hour.

Mr Ritchie said: “We potentially risk damaging the High Street, which is a thriving place – but it is not an unending stream of money, and I would like to see more fairness.”

Councillor Garrick Stevens said: “We have got to protect the prosperity of the town – the retail sector in particular.”

The borough council hopes the increases will collect £70,000 for its coffers in the next financial year. Mr Ritchie said that more than half of this – £40,000 of the total figure – will come from Berkhamsted alone.

He said: “I think that the people of Berkhamsted are being unfairly targeted here.”

But Julie Laws said the higher on-street charges aimed to encourage people to use car parks if they are staying in the town for a longer period of time.

She said the higher car park charges aimed to bring Berkhamsted more into line with Hemel Hempstead, where charges are higher at the moment.

Councillors agreed that the long-term parking spaces in Berkhamsted’s St John’s Well Lane car park should be opened up to short-stay visitors at weekends.

Mr Ritchie said that 29 of the spaces there are for short-term users – less than a third of the total number.

The shortage of spaces for shoppers will only get worse as new shops open in the town and new homes are built, councillors agreed.

Councillor Fiona Macdonald said: “We could have a potential nightmare when M&S opens.”