Sudbury traders back campaign to fight parking charges
09:00 21 January 2016
Business owners are backing the campaign to keep free parking in Sudbury.
The East Anglian Daily Times and its sister title The Mercury launched the initiative after it emerged the system which allows motorists to park in the town’s main car parks for three hours without having to pay is under review.
The same system in Babergh District Council’s car parks in Hadleigh is also part of the review, which is being carried out by the council’s Conservative group.
There is already a £2 charge for all-day parking at the Kingfisher car park in Station Road, but all previous attempts over the past five years to introduce short-stay charges have been strongly opposed.
According to Jane Hatton, Sudbury town centre development manager, the authority will have a fight on its hands again this time. She said business owners were extremely concerned about how parking charges would affect their trade.
“There has been a lot of publicity about how high streets all over the country are struggling. Initially it was the competition from out-of-town shops, which not only benefit from being able to offer free parking, but also have lower business rates. Now it is the growth in online shopping.
“Local authorities should see free parking as a service for local people not a short term method to raise money – and more importantly as a way of supporting their market towns.”
John Hume, co-owner of Angelo Smith Jewellers in North Street, said the introduction of parking charges would have a “disastrous effect” on the footfall coming into town.
He added: “I know this as we had a shop in Stowmarket, which saw a dramatic decline in trade once car parking charges were introduced and therefore we no longer trade in the town.”
Doug Dickson, of Juniper Flowers in North Street, said as a small independent trader in Sudbury, free parking was of the “utmost importance”.
He said: “We pay a horrendous amount of business rates and if the free parking is removed there will be a drop in footfall, drop in revenue and closure of another shop. Then who would want to pay to park for an empty abandoned high street?” he asked.
Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House said while he could understand the concerns about parking charges, he did not think it would have an effect on tourism.
He added: “Gainsborough’s House does not have an official position on the proposal, but I believe tourists expect to pay to park when they visit an attraction.”
Babergh councillor Frank Lawrenson, who is leading the parking review on behalf of the Tory group, said Sudbury and Hadleigh received significant financial support via non-statutory discretionary funding for projects including the arts, the leisure centres, community groups – and free parking.
Despite a significant level of council savings introduced over the past few years, a large shortfall is forecast so the council has an obligation to examine all possible cost-saving measures, including parking.