Expect to pay more for parking in Bury St Edmunds - but it’s still free from 3pm on Tuesdays
- Credit: Archant
Some parking charges in Bury St Edmunds will increase by 50% from April - but the free from 3pm scheme on Tuesdays will continue.
West Suffolk Council cabinet members made the final decision last night on controversial car parking proposals, choosing to raise many tariffs in the historic market town, but keep the incentive on Tuesday afternoons.
The biggest changes include an increase from £2 to £3 for three hours and £2.70 to £4 for all day at the Parkway decked car park and a rise from £2.30 to £3 for all day at Ram Meadow car park.
READ MORE: 'We are on the precipice' - business leader slams council over proposed parking chargesPlans to hike tariffs and scrap Free from 3pm - proposed by the West Suffolk Parking Review Group at West Suffolk Council - had been met with backlash from residents and the business community who felt they could "kill" the town, which is facing its lowest ever footfall and highest number of empty units.
Councillor Peter Stevens, cabinet member with responsibility for car parks, described the increases to charges as "modest" and pointed out the council supports the town in many different ways, but Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town's Business Improvement District (BID) group, said they were "huge" and expressed his disappointment cabinet members had not taken his comments on board.
He said: "Car parking charges are the same for a millionaire as they are a zero-hours part-time worker on minimum wage. I think the over-riding need to balance the budget was the priority here and not the impact upon lower-income households."
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Councillor Diane Hind, leader of the Labour Group at West Suffolk Council, noted there had been no discussion on the charges, adding: "I think it was poor. I think parking is important to the town, especially if it increases to an extra £7 a week or whatever it is to park - that's £7 out of your wages".
Mr Cordell said he was "extremely concerned" the rises would deter people from visiting Bury, but Mr Stevens said "it's not just parking" that attracts people, and made reference to the town's leisure, heritage, retail, restaurants, markets and events.
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Mr Stevens added: "Parking charges are a mechanism for managing the availability and turnover of spaces to support the town centre economy, while any surplus of income goes into funding further services to keep our town centres clean places that people want to visit and also funding the CCTV that comes as a central safety measure."
Cabinet member Sara Mildmay-White revealed the council is looking to hold a town centre summit in the spring to discuss the challenges facing town centres and come up with some solutions.
Mr Cordell said he was "very pleased" Free from 3pm would be kept, and in fact rolled out to Newmarket, and the evening charge (£1 after 6pm) would be kept as it is, rather than extending the day tariff to 8pm and scrapping the evening charge.
A petition calling for two days free parking was not accepted as the council said it would cost more than £1million to introduce in Bury St Edmunds alone and would impact on town centre services.
Extending free parking to Wednesday mornings in Bury was considered, but as this is the busiest weekday morning it was felt it went against the aims of trying to encourage people in to shop during the quieter periods of the week.
Newmarket, which has experienced growing demand in its car parks, will see investment at three of its car parks as the cabinet agreed to spend £70,000 on surfacing improvements at Grosvenor Yard, All Saints and Market Square.
And across West Suffolk, there will be more investment in electric vehicle charging points.