1,200 residents oppose parking charges

By Patrick LowmanMORE than 1,200 angry residents have signed a petition opposing a proposal to introduce parking charges in three towns and villages.

By Patrick Lowman

MORE than 1,200 angry residents have signed a petition opposing a proposal to introduce parking charges in three towns and villages.

Babergh District Council is considering introducing car parking fees in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham in an effort to generate more revenue and so keep future Council Tax rises to a minimum.

But civic leaders and residents are strongly contesting the move and said parking fees would cause serious damage to the vitality and economy of their towns and villages.

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They warned the introduction of parking fees would drive shoppers away and cause inconvenience to residents and visitors.

More than 1,200 people have now signed a petition demanding the plan is thrown out and Sudbury Town Council, Lavenham Parish Council and Great Cornard Parish Council have officially lodged their disapproval.

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A letter sent to Babergh District Council by Sudbury Town Council said: “The town council believes that maintaining services in market towns is essential for the economic health of not only the town, but the hinterland villages.

“Free parking can provide real help in kind for local business. The retention and creation of local jobs also depends on buoyancy of local trading companies.

“If faced with parking fees in Sudbury or Hadleigh and free parking at Tescos and Buyright, the council believe many will opt for the latter. The town council is unanimous in that car parking charges should not be introduced in Sudbury.”

Lavenham Parish Council said parking charges would threaten its ability to remain a “sustainable village”.

In a letter to the district council, it added: “Not only would the introduction of parking charges in Lavenham quite definitely affect our everyday trade within the shopping community, but also our services, post office, dentist, doctor, pharmacy and tourist and leisure industries.

“Will people now have to pay when attending church as the car park is one of those used by churchgoers?

“At the present time we have serious problems with on-street parking which would be exacerbated by the introduction of charges. We have a very high proportion of residents over the age of 60 and if they cannot park outside their homes, have they been considered?”

Babergh District Council first considered introducing parking fees two years ago, but it scrapped the idea after a public consultation showed the majority of residents were opposed.

But last October the authority decided it must reconsider introducing the charges to try to ensure Council Tax charges did not exceed the rate of inflation.

Its overview and scrutiny committee has now recommended the parking charges should be introduced by 2005 and estimated they would raise a net income of £300,000 a year.

Babergh District Council's corporate director, Mike Hammond, said: “The council has a responsibility to be prudent and make best use of its facilities.

“At a time when residents are making it clear that they don't want to see more Council Tax rises, we have to look at other ways of bringing in money.

“We have to consider whether car parks should be self-financing or be subsidised by all Council Tax payers, regardless of whether they use them or not.

“We are only talking of minimal charges of around 20p for up to two hours, £1 for all day and around £140 for an annual season ticket.”

Babergh District Council's strategy committee will discuss the charges next week and will consider the financial merits of introducing the charges against the 4,200 responses it has had from the public.

Its findings will then be passed to the full council for a final decision to be taken around Easter.


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