Three-hour free parking in Babergh to be cut to just 30 minutes, 2021 budget plans confirm
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Plans to reduce free parking in Babergh from three hours to 30 minutes have been unveiled amid a swathe of public backlash.
Business leaders in Hadleigh and Sudbury have already vehemently opposed plans leaked before they were published on Tuesday afternoon, in which Babergh District Council planned to reduce the length of free parking available.
While the change is individual to each town and village, most will have free parking scaled down from three hours to 30 minutes, with up to three hours costing £1.50. The existing £4 day rate will remain.
According to the council, the short term parking charges will bring in £244,000 in additional income to fund improvements to signs, maintenance, upgrading ticket machines and money for green transport projects. This year subsidising the car parks for the first three hours cost the authority £185,000.
The proposals, published on Tuesday as part of the council's 2021 budget papers, followed an independent car parking study, and if approved will be introduced from July 2021.
Businesses in key communities such as Hadleigh and Sudbury have argued that it will present an additional barrier to businesses already trying to recover from Covid-19, but the council said it was "future-proofing parking provision in Babergh", helping encourage sustainable travel options and allowing the council address the financial impact of Covid-19.
Councillor Elisabeth Malvisi, Conservative cabinet member for the environment in Babergh's coalition administration, said: "Any income generated from tariffs would be directly ploughed back into improving parking facilities and supporting the wider visions for our towns.
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"Ensuring we have localised and future-proof parking plans in place in our towns is vital for our short and long term Covid-19 recovery. But it is also vital in encouraging a shift change towards more sustainable travel and meeting our climate change ambitions.
“It is a careful balancing act. We must make better use of our space, ease congestion and reduce pollution, carry out necessary public realm improvements, as well as continue to support our strong visitor economy.
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“By managing our parking stock better, we can make sure people can find the right space, in the right place, leading to positive first and last impressions of our towns. We can act on our climate change ambitions and support residents’ wellbeing, and we can make parking fairer, so non-motorists aren’t paying for services they don’t use.
However, Independent councillor for Hadleigh South, Kathryn Grandon, said there was "a huge amount of anger in Hadleigh".
"There is never a good time to introduce such fees, but this has to be the worst time for the high street - many businesses are at risk," she said.
"My concern is that once such changes are accepted, in future years the free time - which I think is too little anyway - and prices will change, so we should not accept any change."
The matter is to be discussed at the cabinet meeting on January 7, before the scrutiny committee assesses the plans on January 18.