Project to look at how much parking is needed in Babergh and Mid Suffolk
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Whether there is enough car parking in towns and villages will be assessed as part of a new £41,000 joint parking plan to be drawn up by two Suffolk districts.
The cabinets at Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils on Monday agreed to commit £20,500 each on developing the strategy, which will include engagement work and data collection and analysis.
The plan aims to assess demand for parking, its role in helping support town centres, and types of parking needed. It will look at off-street car parks, rural parking, grass verge parking and residential provision.
But it has been confirmed the strategy will not be about car park fees, which are set by the two councils independently and became the subject of much discussion at Babergh amid plans to shorten the length of time for free parking.
The two councils’ joint scrutiny committee gave its backing for work earlier this month, and cabinet approval means detailed work can now begin.
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Phase one work to engage with key stakeholders and gather data will start this summer, with the completed strategy expected to go before cabinets and full council meetings in September 2022 for approval.
Conservative cabinet member for the environment at Babergh’s rainbow administration, Elisabeth Malvisi, said: “Both Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils are keen to deliver a parking strategy that provides a route map with regard to the long term approach for the provision of parking across the districts.”
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She added: “It will help to support regeneration and enable development in and around the district town centres as well as rural villages.”
Jessica Fleming, Conservative cabinet member for the environment at Mid Suffolk, said: “It needs to reflect national guidance as it appeals to both future town centre evolution and commuting patterns, and reflect the changing needs of transport in so far as this is possible.”
Areas the strategy is likely to cover include number of car parks needed in key towns, rural village provision, whether there is enough parking in residential areas, electric vehicle charging points, wheelchair accessible spaces, pavement parking and permit schemes.
There was also a commitment to include sustainable travel as part of the plan.
Work is likely to be co-ordinated with Suffolk County Council (SCC) which has responsibility for highways.
But concerns have been raised over how much it may achieve.
Babergh’s Independent cabinet member for communities Derek Davis, said: “It seems to me we are doing the work SCC should be doing.
“Residential parking spaces – SCC, parking on verges – police and highways.”
Liberal Democrat cabinet member for assets and investments at Babergh, David Busby added: “I think it is going to set expectations we cannot deliver.
“It’s going to identify we have a shortfall of parking spaces but we have done nothing in the past to provide additional car parking spaces.”
Andy Mellen, opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group leader at Mid Suffolk, said he welcomed the strategy, but urged that “the new parking strategy doesn’t just consider but that it actively promotes using parking to deliver modal shift,” with offers such as free parking and charging and electric bike charging facilities.
Mid Suffolk cabinet approved the work beginning unanimously, while Babergh voted five in favour and one against.