New parking fees hit town trade

SHOPKEEPERS have warned that controversial new parking charges have hit trade and encouraged people to visit other shopping centres.

Richard Smith

SHOPKEEPERS have warned that controversial new parking charges have hit trade and encouraged people to visit other shopping centres.

Nearly 2,000 people in Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, signed a petition opposing the introduction of charges.

But Suffolk Coastal District Council overruled their objections, imposed new charges on April 1 and immediately issued parking tickets to drivers unaware of the pricing structure.

Jonathan Todd, manager of Revetts butchers, said yesterday: “We are only a village, we do not have tourist attractions and these charges are penalising local people who want to come in and do their shopping.”

On Monday afternoon just one car was in Crafers long-stay car park and Margaret Reeve, who runs the Teapot Tearoom, warned: “I hope the district council are happy now that they have sent everyone to Tescos. This will kill the village and once it has killed the village there will be no business rates.”

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David Hall, Wickham Market's sub postmaster, said the village was quieter and customers were complaining about the car park charges.

There has been a knock-on effect with shoppers trying to use his free customer-only car park while they shop elsewhere in the village. Drivers are also parking on yellow lines and on a driveway between Revetts and the paper shop to avoid charges.

The parish council would like to take over responsibility for managing the car parks. It will apply under the Freedom of Information Act later to discover how much money the district council has made from the charges and whether this covers the costs of implementing them.

Michael Argent, parish council chairman, said shopkeepers would be asked to compare trading figures for April and a summer month with comparable months last year.

Mr Argent said: “The village seems quieter, the car parks seem to be underused and perhaps people are trying to park elsewhere.”

Bryan Hall, Wickham Market's district councillor, said he was very unhappy about the new charges and he added: “Traders, I understand, have already noticed a decline in business although I accept it is early days.”

The district council imposed charges to improve traffic movement around the village centre and to “assist in improving the vitality of the village as a shopping centre”.

The council, which hopes to make £4,900 a year from the charges, argues that charges for short stays will give a quicker turnover for spaces and also encourage people to use alternative means of transport.

The charges are 50p for two hours and £1 for two to four hours at the 46-space long-stay Crafers car park, and 40p an hour on The Hill, which has 18 spaces. The district council says they are low enough not to provide a significant disincentive.