Thursday, February 28, 2013
FREE parking will be rolled out in Bury St Edmunds - with another identical scheme in the region currently under consultation.
The announcement comes just days after business chiefs called for an innovative free parking scheme in Essex to be investigated in Suffolk as a way to revive struggling high streets.
Under proposals due to come into force in mid April, parking in council-owned short stay car parks in Bury St Edmunds will be free from 3pm every Tuesday.
John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council said the move is a joint initiative between the business community and the council to encourage more people into town at less busy times.
He added: “Following discussions with Bid4Bury, other businesses and the chamber of commerce in Bury St Edmunds, we’re delighted to be able to announce that we are making parking free after three on Tuesdays in Bury St Edmunds. We hope this will encourage even more people to visit our wonderful town and the businesses here.
“It is being done on a trial basis initially for ten months to see what the results are and to see if we can refine things and make things better there after.
“Obviously we, Bid4Bury and businesses will be looking very closely to see if this is the right way forward.”
The free parking will extend into the evening and Mr Griffiths said he hopes the move will encourage shoppers to stay and enjoy the town’s theatre’s and evening attractions - helping to boost the night time economy.
An initiative by Tendring District Council, where council tax paying households were issued with permits that allowed them free parking in 25 car parks between 10am and midnight all year round, has seen shoppers flocking back to local retailers.
Mr Griffiths said for now, free parking will be limited to the Cattle Market, the Arc, St Andrews short stay, Lower Baxter Street and School Yard East and West.
It is possible that Parkway Surface and Robert Boby Way car parks, which are managed but not owned by St Edmundsbury might also be included.
He added: “We’re trying to help shops and businesses in first instance as a trial and we are trying to encourage people who come to shop here rather than people who are here all day – workers and other things. That’s the initial stage of it.”
Terry Clements, portfolio holder for transport, said it was now up to shops and businesses to make the most of the free parking.
He added: “We have done our bit now. It is up to businesses to work and keep their shops open.”
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town centre business improvement group Bid4 Bury, said he was “very grateful” to the council for listening to businesses. Mr Cordell, who has long argued that there is a correlation between free or cheap car parking increases in footfall, said he would “possibly” like to see the scheme extended.
He added: “To be fair to all parties we need to see how this works. This is a leap of faith on behalf of the borough council having listened to my representations on behalf of businesses and we are extremely grateful. The fact that the offer extends into the evening is actually beyond what we asked for, so that is appreciated. It benefits normal retail as well as the night time economy.”
Mr Cordell, who said Bid4Bury will be working with businesses to coordinate offers and promotions on Tuesday afternoons, claimed that ‘Free from 3pm’ is the start of a closer working relationship with the local authority.
He added: “We want to work with the borough council to talk about pay on exit schemes and filling empty units in town. We can achieve so much more by working together with shared outcomes. It benefits all parties.”
A similar arrangement is now being considered in Haverhill and businesses are currently being consulted on the details.
The council will continue to offer free late night shopping after 4pm on Thursdays in the run up to Christmas.