Controversial proposed £25 parking fee for Christmas fair is axed
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa/Archant
A proposed £25 parking fee for people from outside Lavenham visiting the village's Christmas fair has been axed.
One of the organisers of the popular annual event has stepped down - after Lavenham Parish Council intervened to scrap the planned charge, following protests on social media.
The festive market is set to run from December 3-5, with a wide range of stalls and events, including live music, a dog competition, an auction and food and drink.
However, some local business owners were concerned to receive an email update from organisers on Friday, September 3.
The update said visitors from outside the village would have to buy a ticket at £25 per car for a guaranteed space, to "ensure crowd safety and to support traffic control".
Amanda Poole said her husband, Chris, who runs the Cock Horse Inn in the village, had received the email.
"We were concerned for our business for that weekend, as we have events, including a children’s breakfast with Santa and our regular public trade which includes guests who won’t be visiting the fair.
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"We rely on the public car park, provided by the parish council, as a perk of our guests visiting Lavenham, so it was concerning that they would potentially be turned away from the village.
"There has been little consultation on the matter so far, so it came as quite a shock," she said.
Other local residents also criticised the proposed charge via Facebook.
Lavenham Parish Council then stepped in and announced there would not be a parking charge after all.
The council issued an official statement saying messages about the Christmas event had "caused a great deal of confusion and dismay".
The statement said: "For the avoidance of any doubt, Lavenham Parish Council were not consulted or informed about these plans; either the Christmas event or the arrangements for parking.
"Lavenham Parish Council operate two car parks, Prentice Street and Church Street. The £25 fee mentioned by the organiser of the event will not apply to car parks managed by the Parish Council."
The council's vice chair, Irene Mitchell, said: "It's just regrettable that it happened. It's one of those situations where there was a failure of communication."
She said the parish council was supportive of the event but was not involved in organising it.
Margaret Hare, one of the organisers of this year's fair, said on Saturday, September 4: "I have stepped down and there are no charges for parking."
She did not wish to make any further comment, but had earlier posted in the Lavenham Community Voice & Noticeboard Facebook group about the charge, before it was axed.
At that time she said: "As many of you will be aware traffic into the fair has at times created an unsafe situation. The pandemic has also played a part in decisions taken to manage numbers."
She also said the fee would guarantee a parking space and any children under five would see Santa for free.