Tories have denied claims of electioneering after Suffolk County Council ditched overnight charges in Bury St Edmunds’ on-street car parks.
The charges had been due to come in within the next few weeks but on Tuesday, Cllr Guy McGregor, currently portfolio holder responsible for roads and transport, announced the traffic order would be withdrawn,
Part of the reason, he said, was in reaction to the response given from people to Conservative candidates canvassing for next week’s elections. The parking charges could be looked at again after the elections.
“But if there is no appetite to reverse it, and council candidates, as far as I’m concerned are saying we don’t want these charges here, then you can draw you own conclusions.
“Never say never. If there is a problem with congestion at night time we will have to look at it again,” Cllr McGregor said.
Conservative candidate Peter Thompson said the success of local businesses, including the evening economy, was at the heart of his manifesto.
This was after another Bury candidate, the Green Party’s Mark Ereira, who spoke out against the charges, tweeted after the u-turn, saying: “They only listen when they think they might lose an election. What arrogance”.
The charges would have been £1 from 6pm to midnight and another £1 from midnight to 8am.
Cllr McGregor said the reason the council had looked to introduce the charges was that it managed about 10 per cent of car parking spaces in the town and had wanted to bring them in line with the overnight charges for offstreet parking introduced by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
But the borough charge pays for running costs such as CCTV not associated with on-street parking.
“The on-street charges have not been debated and I’m not entirely convinced that it is for the benefit of the public,” said Cllr McGregor.
“We need to offer some relief from the constant pressure on motorists particularly in rural areas. At night, if you come into Bury from a rural area you have no choice but to come by car.”
Bury Chamber of Commerce, Bid4Bury and Richard Bird, from Street Level cafe in Abbeygate Street, were all against the charges.
Mr Bird said: “There was no consultation with businesses on something that would have been very dangerous to us.
“Car parking charges contribute already to pushing people out of town, and the council need to be looking at ways it can bring people in at peak times such as evening and weekends to keep the town centre going.”
While most have welcomed the council u-turn, Judy Broadway, a candidate for tower and abbeygate has criticised the move.
“This may be welcomed by town businesses but not by the hundreds of residents who now face increased competition for parking outside their homes.”
She said overnight charges for off street parking meant visitors would now use residential spaces.