Parking fines rake in £20k in 8 weeks

ANGRY campaigners fighting to keep free parking in a Suffolk town last night hit out at council chiefs after it emerged a new meter scheme had raked in fines of more than £20,000 in only eight weeks.

Dave Gooderham

ANGRY campaigners fighting to keep free parking in a Suffolk town last night hit out at council chiefs after it emerged a new meter scheme had raked in fines of more than £20,000 in only eight weeks.

Babergh District Council, which has been warned it could face legal action over the way the new ticket system was publicised, was accused of bringing in charges for its Sudbury town centre car parks “by stealth” - threatening to wreck trade in a town famed for its free parking.

Chamber of Commerce bosses and business owners denounced the 1,557 excess penalty charges slapped on cars in the town over the past two months as disgraceful and said the fierce enforcement of the long-standing three-hour limit could result in shoppers abandoning the town.

The latest figures revealed that Babergh had made £23,355 in fines in just two months if every £15 fine issued was paid on time - but the council denied any stealth tactics.

Sudbury mayor John Sayers said: “The town is famed for its free car parking and I can't believe this figure is so high. This is a form of charging by stealth. We have always fought off any threat to our free parking and we will continue to do so. I have heard people say they won't come back to Sudbury because they have received a parking ticket, but I just hope that is an idle threat.”

Most Read

The controversial parking meters were installed in August and were met with outrage by residents and shoppers who claimed they were unaware of the changes but still fined for not having a ticket.

Aimed at easing traffic flow in the market town, motorists were forced to display free tickets in short stay car parks - restricting them to three hours.

But David Holland, owner of Curtain Craft, has said the ticketing structure could drive away vital trade: “This new system is disadvantaging customers who come from out of town and are not aware of the tickets. The commercial life of Sudbury is jeopardised by this unfairness.”

John McMillan, the president of Sudbury's Chamber of Commerce, said Babergh could face legal action: “I think this is absolutely disgraceful. My view is that people should not pay their fines and then go to court where surely a reasonable man would realise the changes were brought in without adequate publicity. Once Babergh was forced to refund one ticket, they would have to do the lot.”

But a spokesman for Babergh District Council defended the new ticket machines and said only 2% of all cars parked in the town had been issued with a penalty notice since it went live eight weeks ago.

Figures show that 113,900 parking tickets had been issued and 1,557 excess penalty charges had been implemented.

Stewart Schleip , Babergh's open space manager, said: “We are pleased that it is able to offer up to three hours, free parking for residents and visitors to its towns. The rules are simple: display a ticket or stay over the three hour limit and you will receive a parking fine. This is not a stealth charge but a deterrent to stop people abusing the system by blocking spaces. Any revenue raised by Babergh through parking fines is ploughed back into the maintenance of the car parks.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter