Fury at 600% parking charge rise plan
By John HowardTRADERS and residents have been left incensed by a plan for a huge increase in car parking charges in their town - which could see some fees rise by almost 600%.
By John Howard
TRADERS and residents have been left incensed by a plan for a huge increase in car parking charges in their town - which could see some fees rise by almost 600%.
Mid Suffolk District Council is considering introducing new charges from April 1 at five car parks in Stowmarket.
Under the proposed changes, the cost of season tickets could soar by almost 600% from £208 a year to £1,220 per annum, with quarterly tickets rising by a similar percentage from £58.50 to £343.
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The tariff rises have been backed by council officers at the moment and will be debated by councillors on Monday.
However, the proposal would still need to be put out for consultation and go before a further council meeting in March before it was implemented.
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It comes as the Conservative-run authority faces a £1.57million budget shortfall and tries to keep next year's Council Tax rise to a minimum.
If approved, the charges at the Ipswich Street, Milton Road and Bury Street car parks would be:
n 50p for up to one hour, a rise of 30p
n £1 for up to two hours, a rise of 60p
n £1.50 for up to three hours, a rise of 50p
n £2 for up to four hours, a rise of 70p
n £5 for more than four hours, a rise of £2.50 to £5.
At the Meadow Centre car park, the fee for up to one hour would rise from 30p to 70p, from 50p to £1.40 for up to two hours, from £1 to £2.10 for up to three hours, from £1.50 to £4 for up to four hours and from £3.50 to £8 for more than four hours.
The Iliffe Way car park, which currently charges 70p for up to four hours and £1 for more than four hours, would have the same tariff as the Meadow Centre.
But Toby Hicks, a director of Hicks' Electrical store in the town centre, criticised the proposed increases.
“This is ridiculous. They are trying to charge in other towns too to soften the blow and then put them up here as well. What are they trying to do, drive people away?” he said.
Sarah Megginson, who was visiting the town with friends, added: “This has to be a joke, this is a ridiculous rise.
“Stowmarket is going to lose visitors, the shops are not good enough to attract people in when they get stung so heavily. What are they thinking of?”
But Ray Lee, the council's assets and contracts manager, said: “The current thinking of councillors is that car parking is ridiculously cheap and should be heavier.
“This coincides with the budgets being under severe pressure because of a poor Government grant. They feel this is time to make the charges realistic.”
Mr Lee said other towns such as Diss and Felixstowe currently had similar charges to Stowmarket's car park tariffs and both towns were also reviewing their rates.
He added a regeneration study by the Civic Trust had found that if Stowmarket offered the right stores and facilities, shoppers would not be deterred by parking tariffs.
“The days of having tracts of expensive land at the Council Tax payers' expense, rather than the motorists', are gone,” said Mr Lee.