'Parking fees would drive away visitors'

BUSINESS and community leaders say a new survey proves plans to introduce parking fees in a market town would drive away visitors and destroy its vitality.

BUSINESS and community leaders say a new survey proves plans to introduce parking fees in a market town would drive away visitors and destroy its vitality.

Babergh District Council is reviewing proposals to introduce the parking fees in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham as a way to generate funds.

But civic leaders in Sudbury say survey findings prove parking charges would have an adverse effect on the town and its business community.

The survey, carried out by the town's Chamber of Commerce and handed to the town council, analysed the details of customers using the town centre shops.

It concluded more than half the customers using the town centre come from outside of Sudbury and Great Cornard.

Civic leaders argue many shoppers from the outlying parishes come to Sudbury because of the free parking facilities. They now fear the shoppers will opt to go to bigger towns such as Bury St Edmunds and Colchester if they have to pay to park in Sudbury.

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Town councillor Nigel Bennett, who helped conduct the survey, said: “These results help enormously the case against parking charges, a case we have been making for a very long time.”

Town clerk Sue Brotherwood said: “The council is concerned that the high percentage of people who travel into the town from outside the area will stop doing so if charges are introduced.”

Meanwhile, Babergh District Council has completed the first stage of its review into the charges and has been monitoring the usage of the car parks in all three towns.

The findings of the survey are being collated and will be presented at meetings with the three parish councils and the Chamber of Commerce, which are due to be held before July 23.

Chairman of Babergh's car parking working group Christopher Hunt said: “As we all know doing nothing is not an option and we hope that by conducting the most thorough research into local parking and traffic management situations, the working group will be able to come up with viable long-term solutions.”

A recent public survey showed that 50% of those who took part were against the introduction of the fees, compared to 24% who were in favour.

Despite the objections Babergh officials say the proposals could generate around £300,000 a year, which would help keep council tax increases in line with inflation. A final decision on the parking fees must be made by September, to allow Babergh to include any charge in its 2005-6 budget.

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