Council U-turn on parking charges

By John Howard>COUNCILLORS have made a U-turn on a town's car parking charges and cut prices amid claims the fees had deterred thousands of visitors.

By John Howard>

COUNCILLORS have made a U-turn on a town's car parking charges and cut prices amid claims the fees had deterred thousands of visitors.

Mid Suffolk District Council's executive committee voted yesterday to reduce charges in its car parks in Stowmarket.

The move sees the cost for long-term parking and season tickets reduced, while the busy shoppers' car parks in the town centre will become short stay.

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The £4 charge for more than four hours' parking at the Ipswich Street, Milton Road and Bury Street car parks will now be cut to £2.50, with the annual season ticket falling from £600 to £500 and the quarterly season ticket dropping from £343 to £135.

At the Meadow Centre and Iliffe Way car parks, the nearby Asda supermarket will refund the parking fee when shoppers spend more than £10.

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Eddy Alcock, portfolio holder for public services and licensing with the Conservative/Independent-run council, said the new parking charges were not unreasonable.

“It's sad when people talk Stowmarket down. We do not want to drive people elsewhere, but we do need a reasonable return on our assets, the car parks,” he added.

Mr Alcock said the council believed more people would now return to the town for the whole day and it may even make more money as a result.

He added officers would also explore the possibility of giving visitors to the town's Museum of East Anglian Life a concession to park in the council-run Iliffe Way car park.

Duncan Macpherson, a Stowmarket Labour district councillor, said: “This is a victory for the pressure we put on the administration.

“We said all along it was a mistake and even with these charges cut it's still a big tax on Stowmarket shoppers and workers.

“These car parking charges cost money to implement and there have been 44,000 less visitors to Stowmarket, that could mean £1 million less in the local economy, and that's a modest assessment.

“The fight goes on. We have won the battle, but we want to win the war on this one.”

Andrew Stringer, a Green district councillor who runs a small business, said traders had suffered from the car parking tariffs.

Toby Hicks, director of Hicks BV Electrical shop in the town centre, said he believed some shops had closed following the car parking price rises, which had also caused traffic problems as motorists tried to find alternative free parking.

Mr Hicks felt the council should never have put the charges up in the first place and added shoppers had voted with their feet as a result.

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