Controversial parking scheme to change

COUNCIL chiefs are planning to change a controversial parking scheme after it triggered months of criticism and two petitions demanding the system be scrapped.

Dave Gooderham

COUNCIL chiefs are planning to change a controversial parking scheme after it triggered months of criticism and two petitions demanding the system be scrapped.

Babergh District Council yesterday revealed it hoped to make the car parking ticket machines in Sudbury operational 24 hours a day - in response to residents who fell foul of the regulations in the evenings, overnight and in the early morning.

More than £20,000 was raked up in fines during the first two months of the new scheme in a town famed for its free parking.

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In one instance, a motorist was slapped with a fine after he was unable to display a ticket in one of Sudbury's short stay car parks before an early morning medical appointment.

Tickets are currently only available from the machines in the peak period between 8am and 5pm.

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Council officials denied the change was an admission that mistakes had been made and pledged to continue to listen to motorists in the town.

But Peter Beer, Sudbury deputy mayor and chairman of the town council's highways committee, said: “I wouldn't call this a U-turn but I would say mistakes have been made.

“I have no idea why Babergh found it so difficult to have the machines operational 24 hours a day in the first place. This decision would suggest that the council is learning from its mistakes but people have said that the money officers get paid, these mistakes shouldn't have been made in the first place.”

Scores of motorists have vented their anger over the new parking ticket structure since it was introduced in August.

Staff at the town's Siam Surgery and David Holland, owner of Sudbury business Curtin Craft, have both introduced petitions calling for their removal.

Ryan Jones, Babergh's head of contract and asset management, said the new system had been introduced to encourage a reasonable turnover of cars to contribute to the “vitality and viability of Sudbury's town centre.”

He said: “We are aware that a small minority need to use the car parks during off-peak times before 8am and thus far have been forced to return to their cars after 8am to get a ticket or risk getting a fine.

“Although not entirely in the council's control, Babergh is striving to make these changes - which will be accompanied by signs explaining this adaptation - within the next few weeks.”

The changes include allowing motorists to remain in a car park until 11am, when they have displayed a ticket during off-peak times, and switching off the machines between midday on Saturdays until 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

As previously, anyone using the short stay car parks between the peak times of 8am and 5pm during the week and 8am to 12pm on Saturdays must show a ticket and ensure that their stay includes no more than three hours.

Babergh is now in discussion with the company which installed the machines in the car parks at Girling and North Street and at Roy's supermarket to change the software in them so that they now issue tickets throughout the day and night.

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