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West Suffolk Council's parking review recommendations branded a 'kick in the teeth' by Our Bury St Edmunds leader Mark Cordell




A council’s proposal to axe a free parking scheme in Bury St Edmunds would be a ‘kick in the teeth’ to town centre shops, a business leader has said.

A report published by West Suffolk Council on Wednesday recommends a rise in parking charges at all car parks in the town following the first review of the service in four years.

Under the plans, which will be discussed by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, the £1 evening charge would no longer apply and the normal tariff would instead be extended until 8pm.

Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840565)
Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840565)

The ‘free from three’ parking scheme, which allows visitors to park for free from 3pm on Tuesdays, will also be scrapped if the council’s cabinet approves the plans on February 11.

But Mark Cordell, chief executive of the Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District which runs the scheme, branded the proposals ‘nonsensical’ in light of a declining high street.

“I fully acknowledge that car parking prices haven’t risen for four years,” he said.

Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840569)
Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840569)

“However, I am very concerned that, at a time when the health of the high street is a daily issue reported in the national media, this report is recommending an increase to car parking charges across the board as well as removing the free from three incentive on a Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t think anyone can think this is an incentive for people to visit Bury St Edmunds and it is a kick in the teeth for businesses who continuously tell me how beneficial the scheme is for them.”

Cllr David Nettleton, chairman of the parking review group, said the discontinuation of the scheme would save the council around £80,000.

Cllr Nettleton added that while helping to increase footfall on Tuesday afternoons, the scheme resulted in lower numbers of visitors at other times of day.

MISSING CAPTION (26977044)
MISSING CAPTION (26977044)

Cllr Nettleton added that while helping to increase footfall on Tuesday afternoons, the scheme resulted in lower numbers of visitors at other times of day.

“The ‘free from 3pm’ scheme doesn’t draw any more people to the town,” he said.

“We get fewer people on a Tuesday morning as a result so while there is more footfall in the afternoon, it doesn’t actually make a difference.”

Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840568)
Mark Cordell in The Cattle Market carpark...It's for a story about an increase in car parking charges and the council is looking to scrap 'free from 3'..Picture by Mark Westley. (26840568)

But Mr Cordell denied this was the case and said he was still hopeful that cabinet members would give the proposals ‘careful consideration’.

“We have been working closely and constructively with Cllr Peter Stevens who has a good understanding of the challenges facing town centre businesses and the important role parking plays in attracting customers to the town so I remain hopeful,” he said.

If approved, the plans will also see the pay-on-exit scheme continued in St Andrew’s Street car park – a move which Cllr Nettleton said he would eventually like to see rolled out across the town.

He added that he would also like to see a shift towards cashless payments, with people instead encouraged to use contactless cards or the RingGo app to lower costs of emptying machines.

“There has been resistance to the pay-on-exit trial while teething issues were sorted out but it is improving and I think it will prove successful,” he said.

Other towns are also set to be affected by the changes, with Brandon’s currently free parking hanging in the balance. The group has recommended that either parking tariffs or free parking tickets with enforcement are introduced.

While there are no changes set to be introduced in Mildenhall,the district council is in negotiations with Mildenhall Town Council to discuss the operation of the town’s Recreation Way car park.

Cllr Nettleton said the changes were positive and they ensured that car park users would be paying for parking rather than the tax payer.

“All income from parking goes back into supporting not just the running of the car parks, but other related services to ensure our town centres continue to be clean and safe places that people want to visit,” he said.

A petition for the proposals to be rejected and two free parking days, including a market day, to be introduced in Bury has been launched by We Love Bury St Edmunds. Visit change.org and search ‘Free parking Bury St Edmunds’.

The recommendations are due to be considered by West Suffolk Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 23, which will decide what proposals should go forward for consideration by cabinet.

The council’s cabinet, which ultimately will make any decisions on car parking changes, will consider the recommendations on February 11.

Cllr John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “I would like to thank both the review group for all the work they have put in and also all those who have so far contributed to this challenging and often emotive review.

“It would of course be premature for me to comment on any of the recommendations at this stage, not least because they are still to be looked at by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee and subject to change before again being considered and finally decided upon, by cabinet in a month’s time.

“We look at car parking routinely – though this is the first full review across West Suffolk in four years - and constantly look at how to best manage our car parks including how long people are staying for, the balance of short and long stay parking, where car parks are nearing capacity and other factors.

"Within that tariffs are just one of many mechanisms for managing demand including the turnover of spaces to support our town centre economies.

“Our main priority always is for the continued prosperity, environment and safety of our communities and businesses, and this of course does come at a cost.

"The council for example pays for the Free from 3 initiatives as well as close to £1 million business rates on its car parks.

"We also continue to invest in maintaining and improving our car parks and town centres and making sure they are efficient, safe and welcoming and any surplus from parking revenues helps towards doing this.

“We also have an excellent relationship, and will continue to work closely with the local BIDs, Bury and Beyond, town and parish councils as well the Chamber of Commerce to not only make sure that West Suffolk continues to be an attractive place for people to live, work, shop and visit but also to make sure that the facilities needed are funded in the best , and fairest, way.

“Cabinet looks forward to the outcome of the discussions at Overview and Scrutiny Committee before considering their proposals and taking the final decisions in mid-February.”


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