SCRAPPING free car parking in Thetford would be a ‘disaster’ for residents and retailers, according to objectors.
Breckland Council is asking members to approve a £50,000 study on car parks in its towns in view of introducing charges to offset future cuts of £3.5 million.
But Breckland’s Labour group has struck out against the plans, with a petition attracting 400 signatures in objection.
Terry Jermy, Labour group leader, said: “Free car parking is a major advantage for town centre retailers against the ever-increasing dominance of the supermarkets and other out-of- town centre retail spaces and online sales.
“Our high streets are already struggling at this time of global economic downturn with many retailers relying on free parking to get the customers through the doors. The introduction of such charges now would be a disaster for our high street.”
In a report to the council’s cabinet from Mark Kiddle-Morris, portfolio member for asset management, councillors have been told that parking in the district currently costs the authority £130,000 to operate.
The report states: “An alternative car park policy could help to balance the council’s budget over the next four years.”
It goes on to say the council needs to either cut its spending by £3.5 million or increase income from Council Tax or charge for services. Parking is seen as one potential source of revenue.
If approved, the study and any subsequent policy decision could take up to six months to be brought into action.
But the council does have a £680,000 pot of money available for such projects.
The £50,000 study would set out to complete a business case to fully inform members about alternative car parking proposals.
Volunteers for the Labour group will be taking to the streets in the next few weeks to collect more signatures for the petition.