Fury at parking charges plan

By Richard Smith, Danielle Nuttall and Sarah ChambersCHARGES could be introduced at car parks in three towns to help a cash-strapped council raise money to fund public toilets and tourist information centres.

By Richard Smith, Danielle Nuttall and Sarah Chambers

CHARGES could be introduced at car parks in three towns to help a cash-strapped council raise money to fund public toilets and tourist information centres.

Suffolk Coastal District Council is reviewing car parking charges as it faces increased pressure on budgets from higher staff salaries, increased allowances for councillors and rises in insurance costs and prices for goods.

Councillors and officers are bracing themselves for a backlash from the public and the authority admitted introducing charges at six free car parks will be unpopular with motorists.

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Sixteen of the council's 44 car parks are free and it is asking councillors at the car park task group meeting on October 20 to levy charges at: Oakley Square and King Street in Aldeburgh; Manor Terrace, Garrison Lane and Garrison Lane coach park in Felixstowe; and The Avenue in Woodbridge.

Other proposals include imposing all-year round charges at three car parks in Aldeburgh and four in Felixstowe where motorists only pay in the summer.

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Jeremy Schofield, the council's director of development and community services, said: “It is considered that a moderate increase in charges, although unpopular, would not be unreasonable.

“It is important not to deter shoppers and visitors from the district's towns and to maintain charges at a competitive and comparatively low level.”

He added: “The motorist faces car park charges in most towns these days, however small, and charges are moderate compared with larger towns such as Ipswich and other East Anglian coastal districts, such as North Norfolk District Council.

“It would also be possible, given the range of car parks, to introduce more flexibility within the charging regime. For example, seasonal charges in sea front/resort car parks could be higher than out-of-season.”

Woodbridge town councillor Nigel Barratt said one of the problems facing local authorities was the fact they only received a small amount of the cash collected from local business rates from central Government.

“Councils are required by central Government to provide ever expensive services, but central Government doesn't give back an appropriate amount of the business rates, which forces us to have high levels of domestic rates and provide other means of income to which I object to,” he added.

“I personally, as a Woodbridge councillor, object to any significant increases in car parking charges in Woodbridge and making the one free tourist car park a chargeable car park.

“Woodbridge is the second largest town in Suffolk Coastal and the second largest visited town and to damage all that with too high car parking charges would be a retrograde step.”

Members of the Aldeburgh business community also expressed concern about the plan and said they would oppose it.

Peter Watson, chairman of Aldeburgh Business Association, said: “We would be very against that suggestion having fought the issue some little while ago.”

Aldeburgh Business Association successfully fought against a proposal to impose car parking charges at Oakley Square and King Street in 2000.

“It does surprise that it's come around this quickly,” said Mr Watson. “In essence, we are against all car parking charges. The viability of the town relies on people having ready access to it.

“It would certainly have a knock-on effect on trade. Parking needs to be maintained as a free asset in the town. Any charge is going to restrict use and persuade people to do their shopping elsewhere.”


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