Parking fee plans are axed
CAMPAIGNERS were celebrating last night after plans to introduce controversial car parking charges in two market towns were dramatically kicked out.Babergh District Council's decision not to introduce long-term parking fees in both Sudbury and Hadleigh – where is it currently free – left residents hailing a victory for "people power".
CAMPAIGNERS were celebrating last night after plans to introduce controversial car parking charges in two market towns were dramatically kicked out.
Babergh District Council's decision not to introduce long-term parking fees in both Sudbury and Hadleigh – where is it currently free – left residents hailing a victory for "people power".
Protestors had claimed introducing charges would have harmed the "vitality and viability" of both communities.
Nick Irwin, Sudbury town, district and county councillor, and one of the most vocal opponents of the parking charges said last night: "This is a great day for democracy.
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"It is quite clear the general public did not want to see these charges introduced. People do care about these towns and their viability. Should anything come up like this again I would like to see thorough and proper consultation before a proposal is put on the table."
Jim Quinlan, who represents Hadleigh north, said: "This was the proper decision, I just couldn't understand the argument put forward that it wasn't fair for the whole district to subsidise free parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh.
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"I think the people in the surrounding villages need these facilities more than anyone – the villages are not viable without the towns. The charges would have had a negative effect."
But backers of the £1 charge for long term parking – three hours or more – said the issue would not go away and the decision could lead to further high council tax increases or even service cuts to help the authority cope with future financial pressures.
Babergh officials had recommended the £1 fee to help cut the £290,000 a year it spends on providing parking facilities. It would still have left Babergh with a £125,000 a year car parks bill but it would eventually have created an annual saving of £165,000, which officers say equated to a 4.5% rise in council tax.
Nick Ridley, who represents the Brook ward, said: "I am very disappointed because we now have to decide whether to let council tax rise at a disproportional rate, find other savings elsewhere or pull money out of our reserves, which we shouldn't have to do."
Those fighting the plans claimed the loss of free parking facilities would have a devastating effect on the town centres - driving shoppers to out-of-town retail complexes and to the likes of Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Colchester.
During a heated debate on the issue at Babergh's Hadleigh headquarters yesterday, councillors voiced strong opinions and warnings over the proposals.
Many doubted sufficient research had been done to measure the affect the charges would have on the vitality of the towns and said it would not be fair to introduce them without the investigations.
Peter Beer, of Cornard south, said: "I don't feel we can ignore the 6,500 people who signed the petition against these charges. Both Sudbury and Hadleigh chambers of commerce would rather see no charge and the public certainly do not want them. We must listen to the views of the people and they have quite clearly said they don't want them."
The decision to axe controversial plans for car parking fees in Sudbury and Hadleigh marks the end of a fierce 18-month battle to preserve the free facilities in both towns.
Following yesterday's landmark decision Babergh District Council chairman Sue Wigglesworth said: "It was right and proper that this issue was considered when it was, both because of the difficult financial position that all councils find themselves in and because of the need to do justice to Babergh's own charging policy."