Parking fees 'have hit trade'

NEW parking charges in a Suffolk village have damaged trade, shopkeepers warn.

Richard Smith

NEW parking charges in a Suffolk village have damaged trade, shopkeepers warn.

Motorists are avoiding charges in Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, by parking in side roads and the village hall car park, and drivers are rushing in and out shops to ensure they do not overrun their time limit.

There is concern the friendly and tranquil atmosphere in the village is being eroded by the impact.

Suffolk Coastal District Council imposed charges in April to bring the village's car parks in line with others in the district.

Bryan Hall, Wickham Market's district councillor, said: ''I believe we will be holding a meeting of the parish council and a sub committee of the traders to see if we can encourage the district council to rethink the policy, because it is quite clear that some of the businesses are definitely suffering as a result of the charging policy.''

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Helen Garnham, of Revetts butchers, said: ''The car parks are abnormally empty and the hill is now quiet. It hasn't taken long to change.

''For many years Wickham Market has been a village where one business has fed another with trade. We have suddenly lost that connection.

''Visitors who do pay to park are now only going to the premises they really require - no longer taking the time to browse amongst us all.''

Val Mann, coordinator of the Wickham Market Community Club, said shoppers were now using the village hall free car park.

''Wickham has become a ghost town - or at least the car parks have. I have been using the village hall every Friday morning for the last 14 years or so and since the introduction of 'paid parking' I find that on arriving at 9am there are now at least 15 to 20 cars already parked there, nothing to do with my group.

''The group I run has over 70 members, several who have difficulty in walking, and we are having to park well away from the main door which is causing massive problems,'' she said.

Margaret Holland, chair of the village hall management committee, said some people coming to functions at the hall had to park elsewhere and pay because spaces were taken by non-users of the hall.

''In one fell swoop Suffolk Coastal are destroying everything Lady Cranbrook has been trying to achieve over the last four/five years,'' she said.

The council said earlier this month that there was no evidence trade was down.

A spokesman added: “We are monitoring the car park usage to see if there is any impact on the number of people visiting. Our evidence based on ticket sales and witness evidence is that the car parks are just as busy as before charging was introduced.”

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