Members of the church and theatre community in Bury St Edmunds say they are being hit by a major loss of car parking on the south side of town.
Visitors and volunteers at St Mary’s Church, St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Theatre Royal are reeling from the loss of more than 100 spaces at the former Shire Hall complex car park, which has been sold to Premier Inn.
My fear is it will end up potentially paralysing our workRev Canon Malcolm Rogers
It also follows the closure of the Manor House car park last year - leading to calls for more parking in the area.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council this week though confirmed it has secured 40 spaces for pay and display at weekends from next month at the former Shire Hall car park.
However, the Rev Canon Malcolm Rogers, vicar at St Mary’s, says that while the extra spaces are a ‘good start’, more parking is needed as the situation is ‘critical’.
Before the 40 extra spaces were announced he was even considering whether the great churchyard should be deregulated to allow for parking.
Mr Rogers said: “On a Sunday morning we get about 250 people and people are struggling to find places to park.
“The Angel Hill car park is often full and Ram Meadow for older people is about a 20 to 25 minute walk. My fear is that it will end up potentially paralysing our work.”
Sarah Friswell, PR manager at the cathedral, said they had been discussing the issue with the council ‘to try and find solutions’. She said: “Since the closure of the old county council car park, the squeeze on car parking spaces is felt even more - not just by visitors. At the cathedral we rely heavily on our volunteers to welcome visitors, act as tour guides and work in the Cathedral Shop. They have asked the cathedral to look at the car parking situation as many of them travel a distance to carry out their duties.”
Karen Simpson, artistic director at the theatre, said she was ‘surprised and disappointed’ there was ‘no consultation’ over the car park closures. She said it has left the theatre ‘without any parking facilities’ for weekday matinee audiences and other visitors. They still have night parking at the Greene King car park behind the theatre.
A council spokesman said the Manor House car park closed on December 30 after the site owner gave them notice to quit. He said: “We are aware of the shortage of parking provision in the south of the town but given that this is in the heart of the medieval grid, our options are limited.”