The owner of a tea room in a village where free parking is under threat has said the introduction of charges would be a sad prospect for traders and residents.

Three hours of free parking is currently available in car parks in towns and villages throughout the Babergh district, including Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham.

But the cost of subsidising the free parking cost Babergh District Council about £425,000 last year and it is set to increase this year.

Now the authority, which is facing a budget cap of £1.5million, says it can no longer afford to fund the subsidy if it is to continue to deliver other essential services.

Amanda Mortimer, who runs Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms, said of the possible introduction: "I think from a trading point of view and from a person that lives here, that it would be so sad for the village and such a negative proposal to be put forward. 

"When people arrive in Lavenham it is very relaxed, they find a parking space, they don't have to pay, they don't have to worry about getting out a card or cash, they are already relaxed and in a good vibe.

"It is a feel-good factor before they even start going around the village, and there's no time restrictions so they stay for longer which helps businesses." 

East Anglian Daily Times: Inside Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms in 2023Inside Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms in 2023 (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, Newsquest)

Ms Mortimer said she fears it could also affect those that work in the shops, restaurants and hotels who, up until now, have not had to pay to park for work.

"It is such a negative potential that is not really looking after the village and looking after what we have here," she said.

"When you are driving into Lavenham you are driving into a very special place that takes you back in time. It just doesn't suit the area to have parking machines.

"What does it achieve, other than revenue? It is not going to enhance the village." 

The new tariffs would apply to council-run car parks, with existing on-street parking remaining unchanged and blue badge holders still able to park in the council’s car parks for free.

East Anglian Daily Times: Sudbury Town Council and several community leaders have opposed the plans to introduce feesSudbury Town Council and several community leaders have opposed the plans to introduce fees (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown, Newsquest)

If the proposals to change parking tariffs at Babergh's cabinet on Tuesday, January 9 are approved, officers will meet with town and parish councils. 

A further report will then go back to cabinet in April.  Councillors on the authority's overview and scrutiny committee will also consider any changes to car parking tariffs alongside wider draft budget proposals in the New Year.

In December, an online petition was set up to help save free parking in the three locations, which now has more than 2,900 signatures.

Some community leaders have said they believe plans should be curbed, including Lavenham councillor Paul Clover, who said the move could "kill retail" in the area.

On Tuesday, Sudbury Town Council met for an extraordinary meeting of the full council where the councillors agreed unanimously to oppose the plans.