Dispute over who should have been paying to maintain Higham Ferrers car park for past 42 years

The Market Square, Higham Ferrers
The Market Square, Higham Ferrers

A war of words has broken out over who should have been responsible for the upkeep of a car park for the past 42 years.

Higham Ferrers Town Council has been maintaining the surface and trees of Market Square car park at its own expense for more than four decades.

But as Northamptonshire County Council prepares to start enforcing parking restrictions there from July 18, a debate has started over whether the county council or the town council should have been funding maintenance of the car park.

If it is an adopted public highway, as the county council claims, the town council has said it wants recompense for the funds it has spent on looking after it since 1974.

A statement by Higham Ferrers Town Council said: “The town council have been informed by Northamptonshire County Council that they intend to begin enforcing the parking restrictions on the Market Square from July 18.

“On their records it is public highway and they have a right to do this without the consent of the town council.

“The town council own the Market Square and understood it was not classed as public highway, and are therefore disputing its status.

“The town council have maintained the area since 1974 and will be seeking recompense for these costs should its status as public highway be confirmed.”

The spokesman said there have been parking restrictions on the Market Square since 1974, but added: “This has lacked enforcement over the years.

“It was an action agreed in the community plan that the town council look into enforcing these parking restrictions, but this has not yet been discussed in detail or a decision taken.

“In consultation 55 per cent of residents said that there should be more parking enforcement in the town to improve the availability of parking spaces.

“A transport study subsequently supported this view as way of generating a greater turnover of short-stay parking, ensuring the parking is predominantly for retail rather than commuter use.

“There is free long-stay parking in the Saffron Road car park and on some of the roads around the town centre.”

In response, a spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The car park in Market Square, Higham Ferrers, is within the limits of the public highway and, as such, is the county council’s responsibility.

“The issue of land ownership is separate to whether the land is dedicated as highway or not.

“The county council, as the highway authority, own very little title to the land beneath its highway.

“It is normally always owned by a third party.

“The car park is covered by a county council parking traffic regulation order which is now going to be enforced.”

The town council has asked for evidence that the site is adopted public highway, and its spokesman said that if it is, they will be asking for recompense for the funds it has spent on maintenance since 1974.