Parking charge changes opposed by businesses are postponed

Car parking in Sudbury will be reviewed if Babergh District Council's cabinet approves the review. P

Changes to parking in Babergh have been postponed - Credit: Gregg Brown

Controversial new parking charges in south Suffolk due to come into effect for the New Year have been postponed.

New Babergh District Council cabinet member for the environment, Dr Sian Dawson said: “The Conservatives have continued to listen to our residents, parish and town councils, businesses and others, and understand free parking in our towns is an emotive subject for many.

“I recommended to councillor John Ward [Conservative council leader] to make the decision to postpone the implementation of the new tariffs indefinitely, while we continue to prioritise supporting our businesses and welcoming people back to our high streets.

“Parking, of course, remains a very careful balancing act, between the immediate needs and visions for our towns, those of the whole district, and our environment.

“I am hopeful we can be financially creative over coming months to finance the loss of subsidising our car parks, and continue to help our towns to thrive.”

Any new implementation date or tariff changes are unlikely to be before 2023, according to Dr Dawson, as a district-wide parking strategy is currently being worked on.

The original plans had been to reduce free parking across the district from three hours down to one.

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That was because subsidising free parking cost the district council between £185,000 and £210,000 per year.

But it prompted a backlash from businesses and divided councillors who said the high streets needed all the support they could get after Covid-19.

But opposition groups have expressed their dismay.

Clive Arthey, deputy council leader who heads up the Independent group, said: “The Independent Group members on the cabinet, and we believe others too, feel those car parking charges should be implemented from January to help cover the cost of the shortfall, and that would be to the benefit of the whole district. Further delaying work to improve the car parks is a retrograde step and shows no commitment to the long term provision of well maintained, well managed and usable parking."

Leigh Jamieson, leader of the opposition Green group, said it was “disappointing news”, and added: “It is costing the council hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to maintain car parks. That means everyone who pays council tax, even if they don’t have a car or choose not to drive, is subsidising those who do."