Felixstowe: Car park charges increase could drive shoppers away

INCREASING car park charges could drive shoppers to out-of-town stores and hit businesses already suffering a bleak time, it was warned today.

Town centre traders are fuming at proposals to raise fees – and have pleaded with community leaders to give them a break and put the plans on hold for a year.

District councillors though are faced with having to raise extra cash and say it will be the first increase in town centre car park charges for six years.

The raft of measures includes imposing charges on blue badge holders, and beach hut owners losing their all-day discount.

Free 30-minute spaces in Crescent Road and Highfield Road car parks would also be removed.

Felixstowe chamber of trade chairman Andrew Rowdon said the council’s stance was “really disappointing” and felt people had been asked for their views but then ignored.

Shops in Felixstowe have suffered a bad year with many hit by huge business rate rises, while adapting to the new �2.8 million shared space scheme.

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“It would have been nice if they had sat down with us at the start and outlined their plans so we could have looked at this together in a constructive way,” he said.

“We can understand the council wanting to put up charges but if they had said we realise how difficult things are and offered to postpone the increases for a year that would have been an olive branch.

“It’s a very frustrating and difficult time for traders at the moment and people in the town need a bit of encouragement, a bit of support – you cannot keep on taking and not give anything back.

“If the council was prepared to put these increases on hold for a year we could have used it as a real selling point – attracting people to come to Felixstowe because our charges are so much lower than towns such as Ipswich. Now they can’t do that and people will go elsewhere because of the increases – so we lose out both ways.”

Andrew Nunn, cabinet member with responsibility for car parks, said: “This council recognises the importance of our local shops and businesses, which is why we have postponed any changes for as long as possible.

“Even now this increase will be held off until probably March or April, but we are left with little choice.

“Using our car parks to help generate additional income is one of the few ways that we can get a contribution from the many people visiting our district.”