Over the past year I have written quite a bit about the subject of car parking in the town, so I thought why should this month be an exception?
But I am hopeful that this might be one of the last occasions I need to do this as I understand that the borough councillors are going to be asked to sanction a period of free parking in the town.
I am unaware of exactly what is to be proposed, but I have provided the council with an outline of what I think would best to help the visitors to the town, our businesses and also not cost the council too much.
Many other local authorities across the country have already made decisions on the issue of car parking to assist businesses in this very challenging trading period, whether this is Breckland where they have decided not to introduce car parking charges or in Ipswich where car parking charges have been reduced for a number of months.
In my previous column, I suggested providing free parking on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3pm to encourage more people to come into town on what are traditionally quieter days and it is my understanding that this proposal is being seriously considered which is, frankly, great news. But I have heard unconfirmed murmurings that this may only apply to short stay car parking. If this is the case I would urge the council to include all car parks in the town in this initiative.
I can’t believe that many people who visit the town in a car after 3pm use the long stay car parks, as the excellent value they offer is in regards of all or half day parking and therefore not including these car parks is unlikely to reduce the cost of this initiative by much but, just as importantly, it will dilute what should be a really positive story about the council actively supporting local businesses.
I, of course, appreciate that the council is entrusted with public money and needs to ensure it is used appropriately but it would be such a shame if the genuine support that I know the cabinet and councillors want to provide to our businesses is reduced because of a mentality that, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, ‘knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing’.
The economic environment, as we all know, has been extremely challenging for over four years now and many town centre businesses have ceased trading and the long-term vacant units in the town increase and create a visual eyesore.
Despite this, many of our independent business have survived and indeed thrived due to hard work, enthusiasm, an entrepreneurial approach and some basic ‘British Bulldog’ spirit, but even these now need a helping hand from our council.
So I make a plea to the councillors of St Edmundsbury to support my representations of a need for free car parking, across all car parks in the town centre, when they are asked to consider the budget for 2013/14 on Tuesday evening.
Mark Cordell, Bid4Bury chief executive