Anger at plans to increase car park charges

A COUNCIL would put the economic health of a town at risk if it proceeds with plans to hike parking charges, business leaders warned last night.

Laurence Cawley

A COUNCIL would put the economic health of a town at risk if it proceeds with plans to hike parking charges, business leaders warned last night.

Five different parking hike options have been put forward for Bury St Edmunds by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Options put forward by the council range from increasing the cost of long stay parking on weekdays by 10p to only hiking Sunday parking costs by 40p.

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The council said it had to get a “realistic income” from its car parks and said no decisions had yet been taken on how prices will be increased.

But Bury St Edmunds Chamber of Commerce last night accused the council of sending out “the wrong message” to those who live and work in the town who are struggling during the economic downturn.

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It also called on the council to cut parking costs in the coming year rather than increase them.

Andrew Denny, who is a director of the long established Denny Brothers firm in Bury, warned the council's current proposals risked damaging trade in the town just when businesses needed all the help they could get.

He said: “It is completely the wrong time to do it. Parking in Bury is quite competitive compared to other towns but increasing the charges is completely the wrong thing to do.

“We are in tough times and we've got the arc development about to open. We should be reducing the parking charges just enough to show people that Bury is open for business.

“I don't think a lot of thought has been put into this.

“They are saying their income is going down and their costs are increasing - but that could be said by anybody at the moment. The council will complain about the difficulty at the moment of balancing their books. But who else is putting their prices up at the moment?”

He added the number of available parking spaces in the town was soon to increase once the underground car park, built as part of the arc shopping precinct, was opened in the spring.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We review car parking charges every year and carry out wide-ranging consultation on a range of options, with users as well as businesses, before cabinet makes a final decision.

“We have a duty to make sure we get a realistic income from all the council services for which there is a charge.”

The five options in full:

Increase long stay charges (all charges over three hours increase by 10p, all other charges, including Sunday stay the same)

Increase short stay charges (all charges up to two hours increase by 5p, those up to four hours by 10p and all other charges, including Sunday, stay the same)

Increase all Monday to Saturday charges (all charges up to four hours increase by 5p and over 4 hours by 10p)

Increase all charges (All Monday to Saturday charges increase by 5p, Sunday charges increase by 10p)

Change Sunday charges to bring more into line with Monday to Saturday charges and increase all day parking in St Andrews car park by 40p (to encourage short stay use only), all other charges remain unchanged

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