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Pay on exit parking in Bury St Edmunds could 'risk significant congestion' at peak times

PUBLISHED: 19:21 13 January 2019 | UPDATED: 19:24 13 January 2019

The Arc surface car park, which is managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

The Arc surface car park, which is managed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

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Full 'pay on exit' parking facilities in Bury St Edmunds are off the agenda currently due to concerns over traffic congestion.

Bury BID chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds 
Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDSBury BID chief executive Mark Cordell in the Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds Picture: OUR BURY ST EDMUNDS

Allowing shoppers and workers to pay at the end of their stay in town centre car parks has been a long-running campaign of the Business Improvement District group, Ourburystedmunds.

But a report by officers of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which manages the car parks, said issues of occupancy at peak times “undoubtedly limits our ability to deliver a pay on exit payment facility”.

The report, to the overview and scrutiny committee, also said plans for a new car park “will not be progressed at the current time” given “the reduction in car parking occupancy, the fall in transactions, the reduced income and minded of the significant investment needed in building a new car park”.

While parking transactions have been falling at off-peak times, the car parks have seen higher levels of occupancy at peak times.

Councillor David Nettleton is pictured in St Andrew's car park in Bury St Edmunds Picture: PHIL MORLEYCouncillor David Nettleton is pictured in St Andrew's car park in Bury St Edmunds Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The report said it was agreed in 2015 that all car parks must operate below 95% occupancy at peak times before pay on exit could be implemented “or risk significant town centre congestion”.

“Current peak-time usage means this level has not been met,” it said. “Nevertheless, we recognise the preference by some users to be able to pay at the end of their visit and to flexibly extend their stay if required.

“To this end, new technology is being explored with RingGo that will enable to the user to pay at the end of their stay and we are working on a proposal using mobile communications that can be trialled in spring 2019.”

RingGo allows people to pay without using cash, for example by phone.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds, believes St Edmundsbury is being “over cautious” over fears of traffic congestion, but added he can understand “why the council won’t budge on it”.

“We hope to have another meeting with the council next month to further discuss parking and to be updated by them around this possible development with Ringo,” he said.

“Currently you can extend your stay on Ringo but only up to a maximum of four hours. If the changes enable someone to stay more than four hours in a short stay car park then it’s a step in the right direction, but far from the ideal total solution I want to see.”

Councillor David Nettleton, who previously led a review of charges at the town’s car parks, questioned whether pay on exit would add to congestion problems.

“Pay on exit would be good and gives the customer the choice of how long they want to stay and they don’t have to guess beforehand how long it is,” he said.

He said in 2012 as part of the car parking review pay on exit should be trialled.

The report to the overview and scrutiny committee said on a Saturday occupancy is above 95% full for 1.5 hours at all car parks, and for even longer at the Cattle Market, Parkway surface and St Andrew’s car parks.

The latest car park occupancy figures suggest that peak-time demand for parking will continue “and by 2035 an additional 485 spaces will be needed at peak time”.

But across the week “the supply of car parking spaces is significantly well below levels of stress”, the report said.

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