Council agrees parking u-turn

A SUFFOLK council has at last bowed to pressure from shopkeepers and brought in free parking to help them stop losing trade.

Richard Smith

A SUFFOLK council has at last bowed to pressure from shopkeepers and brought in free parking to help them stop losing trade.

Suffolk Coastal suffered a huge backlash when it controversially introduced charges at two out of three car parks in Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, in April.

Traders say business has fallen since then and now the council has decided to allocate 11 spaces in the Percy Mason car park for free parking for 30 minutes, and charging will not start until 9am instead of the current 8am.

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Meanwhile, in Woodbridge the council will open its car park at Melton Hill for parking on Saturdays giving shoppers 200 free spaces for up to 11 hours.

The council had been constantly criticised for failing to ensure the public could benefit from the large car park which was closed on the peak shopping day of the week a few yards from the Thoroughfare.

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Andy Smith, Suffolk Coastal's cabinet member with responsibility for car parking, said yesterday: ''Car parking charges were introduced at Wickham Market because we needed to do something to free up the parking spaces around its centre, and to make things fairer across the district.

''We have listened to the comments we have received, and looked at the evidence that we have gathered and have been given, and have met with the parish council.

“The input from the parish council was very useful, and it is at their request that we are putting back until 9am when people have to start paying to park. We hope that this will particularly help mothers dropping their children at school.

“The measures that we introduced were for the long-term good of Wickham Market as offering unlimited free parking usually means that the spaces are filled by people who are not shoppers.

“Some people were not happy when we introduced charges, but the economic reality of Britain today is that all shops are suffering and I think it is unfair for some to try and put all the blame for a reported downturn in trade at some shops in Wickham Market on our decisions.''

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