Stowmarket: Discussions held over free parking proposals in town

The Market Place in Stowmarket

The Market Place in Stowmarket - Credit: Archant

A council is remaining tight-lipped over proposals to provide free parking which could boost a town’s economy.

Early discussions are under way to introduce a day for shoppers to park free of charge in Stowmarket.

Stephen Searle, county councillor for Stowmarket South, said he had spoken to Mid Suffolk District Council, which manages the main car parks in the town, about the proposals.

“I’m working on getting free-parking days on market days – probably Thursdays – and I have been told there’s mileage in it,” he said. “It could be for the whole day and for anyone free of charge – that’s the idea.

“I think if we get free parking in the town it will increase footfall to all businesses in Stowmarket. But there would be revenue lost from the district council from the car parks so we have to come to some kind of idea to balance it.”

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He said he would be talking to the town council to get its backing and managers of the Asda and Morrisons supermarkets, where two of the car parks are based. Town centre manager for Stowmarket Town Centre Partnership, Sharon Brown, called for free parking in September after it was revealed four businesses in Bury Street had been put on the market.

“It would be excellent – we would definitely welcome it,” she said.

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“It’s been talked about for a little while. Mr Searle would certainly have our backing for any scheme which would bring in free parking.”

A Mid Suffolk District Council spokeswoman said the authority was unable to comment as it was not aware of any formal discussions taking place with Mr Searle. This year the authority increased the time shoppers could park from 90minutes to two hours for the same cost. Parking season ticket prices were cut by 40%, from £500 to £300.

The council earned more than £440,000 in 2011/12 from its Stowmarket car parks – up from £219,000 the previous year.

The owner of Simpsons Toy Shop, Ernest Baker, said the shop was likely to close because of a lack of trade when he spoke to the EADT in September. The store, in Bury Street, has been in the town for more than 100 years.

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