Bury St Edmunds: Coach charge anger

Council moves to charge coaches bringing in tourists to a Suffolk market town may as well tell visitors to “go away”, it was claimed last night.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is looking at a raft of measures designed to save cash and generate new income as part of a bid to freeze next year’s council tax.

One of the council’s proposals for generating �264,800 next year is to introduce a charge for coach parking.

However, critics last night claimed charging coaches for parking could put people off coming to Bury St Edmunds.

Mike Ames, chairman of Bury in Bloom, said: “Doesn’t the council think that coach companies are tightening their belts too?

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“This is going back to the old tollgate days when people would have to pay a toll to enter the town. I think it would be counter-productive and won’t act in the interests of the town’s economy and it certainly won’t help tourism.”

David Nettleton, an Independent member of the council, described the local authority as a “truly ‘Del Boy’ borough council”.

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“Worst of all,” he said, “is a proposal to charge for coach parking.

“Bury is a tourist attraction particularly during the week as coaches arrive and people just wander around the shops, historic buildings and Abbey Gardens.

“Why doesn’t the borough council just put up signs at all the main entrances to Bury saying ‘Go Away’?”

Andrew Denny, chairman of the Bury Chamber of Commerce, said: “Certainly, it is vital that the council does nothing that might discourage visitors to the town, particularly during the current difficult trading conditions. However, there is currently no coach parking facility at Ram Meadow, and the car park is generally under utilised, so this may actually help increase visitor numbers.

“As long as the existing coach parking facility at Rougham Hill is not withdrawn and the charges are reasonable it is a sensible way for the council to fill its funding gap.”

The council said charging coaches for parking was common practice elsewhere in the country.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “We are exploring options for bringing coach parking, currently at the lorry park near the A14, closer to town.

“This would make it easier for companies to drop off and pick up their passengers and would also mean the council could stop paying taxi fares to and from the town centre for the coach drivers.

“Charging for coach parking is an option which is already in place at many other tourist destinations and before we decide on a location and level of charge we will talk about any potential impact to the companies involved and the Tourist Information Centre.

“The council is facing an unprecedented funding cut and this is one small element of an overall package that looks to protect frontline services.”

The move comes just weeks after Southwold Town Council announced it planned to bar large buses and coaches from using part of its High Street.

The council says the idea, which has met with an angry response from business owners who fear the move would harm trade, will improve traffic flow in town.

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