Car parking charges fury

By Sarah ChambersCAR parking charges look set to be introduced for the first time in one town centre and raised in many others, despite a barrage of protest.

By Sarah Chambers

CAR parking charges look set to be introduced for the first time in one town centre and raised in many others, despite a barrage of protest.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition against introducing charges in Aldeburgh, while concern has also been voiced about the price rises proposed for Felixstowe and Saxmundham.

But, despite the anger, Suffolk Coastal District Council is set to press ahead with the move when it meets next week.

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The council's cabinet will decide on April 6 whether to introduce charges at free town centre car parks in King Street and Oakley Square in Aldeburgh to September 30.

It has also been recommended to approve a plan to introduce fees at The Avenue car park in Woodbridge from Monday to Friday, and seasonal charges at countryside or amenity car parks at Sizewell Beach and Melton Riverside.

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In addition, the cabinet will be asked to approve proposed increased charges at a series of car parks across the district to come into force on June 1.

However, Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council, Melton Parish Council, Saxmundham Town Council, Leiston Business Association and Felixstowe Town Council have all objected to the proposals.

Aldeburgh Town Council is unanimously opposed to the plan and Aldeburgh Business Association warned it would have “a negative impact on the commercial, recreational, tourist and residential life of the Aldeburgh”.

The town council said it would “seriously affect the economy and viability of the High Street shops as they rely on customers being able to park their vehicles easily and free of any charges”.

Councillors will also consider a petition signed by 1,240 residents and visitors, the vast majority with Aldeburgh addresses, against the charging proposal.

The report to cabinet suggested it might wish to consider delaying the introduction of charges in the town centre car parks in Aldeburgh until April 2005 while the effect of a new Solar supermarket and additional on-street parking restrictions were monitored.

“However, in view of the wide range of retail outlets in the town centre and the size and location of the new supermarket it is considered unlikely that this alone will have a serious effect on the use of the two town centre car parks,” it said.

“Whilst the views of the traders are understood, particularly in respect of the competition from edge-of-town supermarkets with free parking, the proposed scale of charges would ensure the spaces are used for short-term (shopper) parking rather than all day beach visitors, residents or employees.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council cabinet member Andy Smith, who is chairman of the car parks task group, said he was not surprised at the strength of feeling in Aldeburgh.

“We have been over this ground before in Aldeburgh, so I'm not particularly surprised. In fact, I think the response is a little bit more muted than previously,” he added.

“While we understand the way some people feel and nobody likes to pay for something they have not paid for before, times have moved on and it's hard to see there is any reason why we have to treat Aldeburgh more favourably than other small towns.”

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