Poll: Will higher charges ease the parking shortage in Bury St Edmunds?

The Parkway multi-storey car park in Bury St Edmunds.

The Parkway multi-storey car park in Bury St Edmunds.

Increasing car parking charges could help to deal with a shortage of 100 spaces in Bury St Edmunds town centre at peak times, it has been suggested.

The historic market town is thriving with few empty units and was recently named one of the country’s best high streets in an annual competition.

But at peak times – Wednesdays and weekends – there is a shortage of car parking spaces, according to an independent consultant employed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The consultant says if no action is taken to displace cars to Ram Meadow from the Parkway and Cattlemarket car parks, the “deficiency” in car parking spaces would rise to 500 by 2035.

Recommendations include increased tariffs for longer-stay parking – that of three and four hours – across all car parks and no all-day parking at the Parkway multi-storey car park on Saturdays.

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A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which is carrying out a review of its car parks, said: “The task and finish group has been looking at options including tariff changes to manage length and location of stay.

“The group will consider the consultant recommendations as well as the views of businesses and car park users before coming to any conclusion but no firm recommendations have been drafted or agreed.”

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The key issues and actions the consultant flagged up were revealed in Suffolk County Council’s draft ‘Bury St Edmunds Transport Strategy 2011-2031’.

The town’s Business Improvement District (BID) group Ourburystedmunds is a member of the borough’s car parks review working group, whose membership also includes Suffolk County Council, Bury Chamber of Commerce, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, West Suffolk College, Bury Town Council and the management of the Arc shopping centre.

BID chief executive Mark Cordell said: “We are keen for car parking to be as available, accessible and I suppose as cost effective for businesses and visitors as possible, but we acknowledge there are some capacity issues, particularly at the weekend.

“So I understand the council are looking at that and we want to work with them so nobody starts to think ‘I won’t come into Bury because I cannot park’.”

The county’s draft transport strategy for Bury, which is a working document, says to provide improvements to deal with the town’s growth over the next 16 years “some potentially difficult principles will have to be considered, for example; removal of parking to accommodate gaps in the cycle network; limiting access on key town centre routes to provide bus priority; effective pricing in off-street car parks to discourage commuting by car”.

“We will work with the county and borough councillors and officers to agree these,” it said.

Independent borough and county councillor David Nettleton said he would be “all for” creating bus priority routes at certain peak times, and added the cycle network did need to be improved.

The borough council spokesman said any recommendations or decision on its car parks would have to consider the implications of the county’s wider transport plan.

“The working party’s report will be presented to the overview and scrutiny committee who will then make recommendations to cabinet to make a decision,” he said.

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