Parking prices - it has to be Asda

A TOWN centre superstore has forced a council to halt plans for large increases in car parking charges near its store.Asda is exploring legal options for thwarting the Conservative/Independent run Mid Suffolk District Council move increase charges at the Meadow Centre car park.

A TOWN centre superstore has forced a council to halt plans for large increases in car parking charges near its store.

Asda is exploring legal options for thwarting the Conservative/Independent run Mid Suffolk District Council move increase charges at the Meadow Centre car park.

The district council had voted through parking charges at five car parks in Stowmarket to find savings of £1.57million in its budget. Other steps include council job losses, freezing councillors' allowances and a 6% council tax rise.

Higher car parking tariffs sparked outcry from the community as charges which ranged from 20p to £3.50 rose to 50p to £5, depending on the length of stay. Season tickets also rose from £208 a year to £600 and from £58.50 a quarter to £169.


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Now Asda, which owns the Meadow Centre car park next to its store and leases it to the council, has challenged the rises at that car park.

Rival store the Solar Co-op, on the Combs Ford side of the town, and the Tesco superstore, on the outskirts of Stowmarket, both have free parking and Asda has been refunding shoppers some of the cost of parking if they spend some money in the store.

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Ray Lee, assets and contracts manager at the council - who has a responsibility for maximising the authority's assets - confirmed the prices at the Meadow Centre car park are on hold until the situation is resolved, keeping prices at 30p to £3.50 rather than 70p to £5. All other car park prices go up

today.

A spokesman for Asda said: “We have objected to the increases, like a lot of people, and are fighting it.

“We hope they will listen and be reasonable, leaving car parking charges alone. The charges are fairly reasonable at the moment, people are attracted in to the car park, Asda and the surrounding area.

“If they are hiked up there will be quite a jump and it will be deterring people from coming, so we are battling this.

“The ultimate decision is with the council, but we are looking at legal options, examining every route we can take to prevent these charges going up. But it's early stages at the moment.”

Roger Saunders, leader of the council, said it was too early to say how much revenue the authority would be losing, adding that solicitors have been in touch with the council.

He added that it might be a case of both sides compromising, but at this stage the rises have been delayed to give time to resolve the dispute.

Mr Lee added: “Asda are our landlords and we want to sort this out. We have written to them and asked them to put their concerns in writing, so we can consider them.”

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