Council issues 3.5 times more car parking permits than town centre spaces available

Vivien Gainsborough Foot, chairman of the Churchgate Area Association, in Whiting Street in the Medi

Vivien Gainsborough Foot, chairman of the Churchgate Area Association, in Whiting Street in the Medieval grid Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: Archant

The increasing pressure on residents’ parking in central Bury St Edmunds can be revealed as an investigation shows more than 3.5 times the number of permits have been issued to spaces.

One resident who lives in the Medieval heart of the town, known as the grid, described the situation in the zone D residents’ parking area as “appalling”.

A Freedom of Information request by this publication found 463 parking permits were issued for zone D - which includes Churchgate Street, Whiting Street and Guildhall Street - for 2017/18 compared to 125 “assumed” parking spaces.

This is the highest ratio of permits issued to spaces for any of the 12 residents’ parking zones in Bury St Edmunds.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council administers the parking scheme on behalf of Suffolk County Council, which wanted to stress the number of spaces is based on the assumption that each vehicle needs six metres of space.

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Vivien Gainsborough Foot, chairman of the Churchgate Area Association, which represents residents and businesses in the grid, said it was “urgent” that the problem is tackled.

This sign in Whiting Street says the spaces are for resident permit holders only from Monday to Satu

This sign in Whiting Street says the spaces are for resident permit holders only from Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: Archant

And James Langston, a CAA member who lives in Churchgate Street, said: “It’s absolutely horrendous finding somewhere to park. It’s all the time, but particularly in the evening. If you come home after say 6pm forget trying to park anywhere.”

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Alan Broadway, a CAA committee member for traffic and parking, said some evenings it was “absolutely impossible” to find a parking space.

The historic heart of the town is shared by residents, businesses and schools, with a vibrant night-time economy including pubs, restaurants and bars. Residents’ parking schemes operate during normal working hours.

This publication reported on the issue in 2015 , but Mr Langston said the problem of trying to find a space was now “so much worse” and “just awful”.

He compared the council to a music venue that had over-sold tickets compared to the number of seats and then had to turn concert-goers away.

The view down Churchgate Street, which is part of the zone D residents' parking scheme Picture: MARI

The view down Churchgate Street, which is part of the zone D residents' parking scheme Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said the council cannot technically refuse a request for a permit providing that residential property has not already been issued with one.

He added: “We recognise that existing town centre parking for residents is constrained particularly in the historic core and will continue to manage this in certain locations of the town via residential permit parking scheme which we administer on behalf of Suffolk County Council.

“Many of these homes were built at a time when there was no cars. Unfortunately in some of these areas, the number of cars people have per household does outstrip the number of available spaces. We are up front in advising all residents buying a residential permit that it does not guarantee them a parking space.”

What happened to the neighbourhood parking review?

Following a review of neighbourhood parking by consultants Alpha Parking, a number of recommendations were put forward, including increasing the number of spaces for residents in zone D.

CAA members have expressed their frustration that following this work in 2016, which was jointly commissioned by the borough and county councils and endorsed by local borough and county councillors, nothing seems to have happened.

Mrs Gainsborough Foot, a Whiting Street resident for 13 years, said: “It’s extremely disappointing.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council said on its website: “The next step is for Suffolk County Council to draft an amended Traffic Regulation Order for each zone that will include changes to parking restrictions, the extension of zones and the permitted use of parking bays.”

For the final report on the parking review see here.

Suffolk County Council were approached for comment, but did not respond in time.

Who will enforce the parking regulations?

Residents in the Medieval grid said drivers regularly flout the rules, with Mr Langston revealing one car had been parked on double yellow lines for at least six days.

“They are just parking willy-nilly everywhere all over the Medieval grid,” he said.

Mrs Gainsborough Foot added: “The civil parking enforcement is also very urgent and we have been pushing for that for a very long time.”

Civil parking enforcement was due to transfer from Suffolk police to the relevant borough and district councils from April 2019, but has been delayed.A spokesman from Suffolk police said: “Parking issues are regularly highlighted to police and we look to carry out patrols and enforcement where possible, prioritising danger and obstruction. “Enforcement action must be balanced against the threat and risk caused by other priority work.“Officers carry out patrols when they can, but sadly there remain a number of drivers who persist in parking inconsiderately, which can also affect the safety of both pedestrians and road users“We would urge all drivers to park legally, considerately and responsibly, and to think about the effect their behaviour may have on others.”

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