Bury St Edmunds: Review of parking recommends ‘selective increases’

A REVIEW of parking charges in parts of west Suffolk prompted by anger at ‘across the board’ price increases has recommended that tariffs in some car parks should go up again.

The Car Parking Review Group has proposed that prices in St Edmundsbury car parks should be tailored individually and that free parking in the town centre is removed or restricted.

The proposals would see some prices rise in April 2013, including those in the county’s most lucrative car park, the Cattle Market.

Other tariffs would remain the same or fall, while parking in Lower Baxter would be free for two hours between 8am and 10am each Wednesday in a bid to boost trade to the street market.

The actual process of paying was also recommended for change with simple prices and a feasibility study into pay-on-exit parking at some sites, including Parkway Surface.

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Mark Cordell, Chief Executive of town centre improvement organisation Bid4Bury, whose petition to St Edmundsbury Borough Council leaders in February, led to the creation of the review, described the recommendations as a “curate’s egg”.

He said: “The major positive is that the council have acknowledged their huge misjudgement last year in raising all car park charges without speaking to business groups, and I personally have welcomed Councillor Nettleton’s co-operative approach on this issue.

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“I am concerned though that the Council appear to reserve the right to put up charges each year whereas I support the proposal to freeze charge for three years at a time.”

Councillor David Nettleton, chair of the review group, said the panel had “listened to the people” and that many of the recommendations were the product of an “extensive consultation process.”

He said: “The conclusions of the review group are that some car parking charges should alter, but that many should remain the same. Most car parks offer a standard charge of either �2 or �2.20, but the time this buys varies depending on location and popularity.”

Mr Nettelton said car parks that are closer to town will remain more expensive, in part to prevent saturation by shop workers.

The independent councillor, who is also chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that will debate the proposals today, said the findings showed that although parking charges “arouse strong feelings” most customers are more concerned about location than price.

He said that when neutral responses were removed from a survey of 1,000 people, there was 95% satisfaction with the parking offer.

The majority of customers, 701, said location was the main reason for using a car park.

Mr Nettleton said users of low emission vehicles and “the army of staff and workers” who use St Edmundsbury’s car parks also stand to benefit from the proposals, with a possible reduction of season ticket prices in Ram Meadow and Parkway Decked.

The review also recommends that the borough and county council work more closely together to remove or restrict free on-street parking in and around both town centres.

Mr Cordell said he was concerned that the “council’s desire for funding in the short term does not take into consideration the impact car parking charges has upon local businesses.”

But he welcomed proposals to help staff employed in the town centre and recommendations to promote “all that is good about the town and publicising the cost and value of car parking.”

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