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Bury St Edmunds: Agreement to hike parking charges at town centre car parks and streets ‘flawed’ and ‘unfair’

PUBLISHED: 13:56 15 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:56 15 March 2014

Suffolk County Council say agreement to increase car parking charges in Bury St Edmunds will improve conditions for shoppers and cyclists in the town centre.

Suffolk County Council say agreement to increase car parking charges in Bury St Edmunds will improve conditions for shoppers and cyclists in the town centre.

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Business leaders in Bury St Edmunds last night criticised an agreement to increase parking charges at major car parks and streets in the town centre.

It emerged yesterday Suffolk County Council has approved proposals to hike daytime parking fees at the Angel Hill and Cornhill/Buttermarket car parks, plus a host of on-street parking areas, in a bid to alleviate traffic congestion and improve conditions for shoppers and cyclists in the town centre.

However the disclosure provoked widespread concerns from industry leaders, who questioned the logic of the “ill-thought out” and “flawed” scheme amid claims the authority failed to consider their views during talks.

The county council notice, seen by the EADT, shows how motorists will be faced with a 29.4% increase for one-hour on-street parking in eight town centre roads, including Guildhall Street and Churchgate Street.

The one-hour stay will rise from £1.70 to £2.20, from 9am-6pm, Monday to Saturday, and 1-4pm on Sunday. The new tariffs, coming into force on April 22, will see 30-minute visits rise to £1 and two-hour stops climb to £3.50.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town centre business improvement group Bid4 Bury, said that while businesses last year welcomed a freeze in street charges, they would find it difficult to accept the revamp as he sought to add pressure over the plans.

“I am interested to know how a near 30% increase for a one-hour period outside Angel Hill and the Buttermarket can be justified,” he said.

“With so much positive news about Bury recently it is disappointing that these increases have been introduced. There is no evidence as far as I am aware that freezing the charges last year has caused any traffic management issues.”

He added: “I would have appreciated the courtesy of having a conversation with regards to these charges but that has not been forthcoming.”

Richard Bird, owner of The Street Level Cafe in Abbeygate Street, branded the overhaul “extremely foolhardy”.

He added: “They are totally out of touch with our situation. People can do everything at home, and these short-sighted changes are going to drive away even more daytime shoppers. It is ridiculous.”

At the Angel Hill car park, 30-minute stays will increase to £1.50, while two-hour visits will be £3.50. One-hour stops will remain at £2.20.

At the Cornhill/Buttermarket car park, 30-minute stops will increase to £1.50, with one-hour stays set at £2.20.

The changes at the St Edmundsbury Borough Council owned car parks will be valid from 10am-6pm, Monday to Saturday, and 1-4pm on Sunday.

David Nettleton, an independent borough councillor, claimed the authority “ignored” the borough council and criticised their “aim of linking on-street to off-street charges”.

He said: “Their process is flawed and needs to be examined. The changes are ill-thought out and we are left as the after-thought.”

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads and transport, said recommendations followed a major review and consultation of on-street and off-street parking charges, with evidence taken from a “number of sources”.

He said: “The charges lends to part of a strategy to reduce unnecessary traffic movements in the centre, allowing pedestrians and cyclists easier access within what is a very constrained town centre.”

He insisted generating extra income was not a factor, adding the proceeds will be spent only on parking and traffic-related issues.

“Projects in (Bury) could benefit in future, which otherwise may not go ahead,” he added.

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