Calls to postpone decision to cut free parking in Babergh

Mayor of Sudbury Jack Owen. New flower beds have been installed in Sudbury to replace social distanc

Jack Owen, the mayor of Sudbury, and Frank Minns, mayor of Hadleigh, have written an open letter to Babergh cabinet members to ask them to postpone a decision on car parking charges. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

An open letter has been written urging Babergh cabinet members to reconsider making a decision on the slashing of free parking in the district, following concerns it would make the recovery from Covid-19 more difficult.

Hadleigh Town Council and Sudbury Town Council have penned the letter to Babergh District councillors following a swathe of public backlash over its plans to cut free parking from three hours to one hour, a slight improvement on the original 30 minutes suggested. 

It follows a petition put forward by Stephen Laing which called on the council to maintain free parking in all Hadleigh car parks and called for a decision to only take place after a full public consultation.

Ahead of the cabinet meeting on Thursday where a decision is set to be made, councillor Frank Minns, mayor of Hadleigh Town Council, and councillor Jack Owen, mayor of Sudbury Town Council, have written to Babergh District cabinet members to further address their concerns. 

The letter states that both councils are "very concerned" about the plans to reduce the period of uncharged car parking, urging cabinet members not to make any decision to change this until we have recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic and until the Strategic Parking Review has been developed. 

It said consultation with the town councils and business owners must be an essential part of any major change to the parking scheme and this has not happened. 

"We are ready to work with you over this year to develop the rational for any necessary changes, but it must be done through consultation with all interested parties and must retain the popular support of our residents and business communities," they said.  

"Together, Hadleigh and Sudbury comprise the economic heart of Babergh District with a third of Babergh residents living within five miles of the town centre shops. 

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"Both towns have many small independent retailers who believe that their trade depends on casual shoppers wandering past and dropping in on a whim to make unplanned purchases. 

"This is only possible if they are not worried about exceeding their parking time limit and the current three hours uncharged parking allows reasonable time for this style of shopping.

"The current proposals to reduce this to only one hour will damage business confidence and make the recovery from Covid-19 all the more difficult."

The two councils said they believe the Strategic Parking Review later this year is the forum to consider any changes to the periods of uncharged town centre parking. 

It called on members to postpone any decision until these processes have been completed and all the relevant facts have been fully considered. 

Babergh has said  any income generated from tariffs would be directly ploughed back into improving parking facilities and supporting the wider vision for its towns. Changes to charges was also "vital in encouraging a shift change towards more sustainable travel and meeting our climate change ambitions".