Car park price hike fear
FEARS were voiced today that imposing charges on Felixstowe's largest free shopping car park could seriously harm town centre trade.Talks are to take place between council chiefs and the owners of the Solar superstore to see if a deal can be struck.
FEARS were voiced today that imposing charges on Felixstowe's largest free shopping car park could seriously harm town centre trade.
Talks are to take place between council chiefs and the owners of the Solar superstore to see if a deal can be struck.
But town councillors have decided not to object to price increases at other town centre car parks - accepting they are necessary to keep the council tax down.
Ipswich and Norwich Co-operative Society have already told Suffolk Coastal that it would be interested in the council running its car parks at its stores in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, and also at Framlingham and Leiston.
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Now negotiations are to take place over an arrangement which would see charges introduced with the income split between the supermarket company and the council in return for the local authority managing the car park.
The supermarket would refund shoppers' car park charges on condition of a minimum spend in the store.
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However, it is not known how the scheme might affect the Homebase store which also uses the car park as many people would not want to pay for buying a packet of screws or to look round.
But some Felixstowe councillors are sceptical about the plan - and the town council is seeking clarification over the idea and would like it to remain free.
Deputy mayor Don Smith said the car park was vital to the town centre and had always been accepted as being freely available to everyone, not just Solar shoppers, encouraging people to visit the town.
"We ought to be supportive of keeping this car park free," he said.
Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Ninnmey said losing such a large free car park could damage the resort's attractiveness as a place to shop and hit trade.
"Felixstowe already loses something like £16 million a year to the superstores on the Ipswich fringe and we need to do all we can to encourage people to come here - not to lose them," he said.
Suffolk Coastal is consulting on a package of increased charges it hopes will raise £200,000 next year.
In Felixstowe's short-term car parks, charges will rise by 10p to 50p for one hour, and there will be a 20p rise to £1.20 for motorists staying between two and four hours.
Seafront visitors will pay an extra 20p for up to four hours, but it will cost between 80p and £1.20 depending on where they park.
Staying over four hours will be increased by 25pc at the Spa Pavilion and Pier Bight to £2.50, and by 87.5pc to £1.50 at Brackenbury, Golf Road, Arwela Road, Sea Road and Clifflands.
The town council regretted the increases but understood the objectives, and was pleased some money would go to resort enhancement schemes. It was also pleased that seasonal and Sunday charges had not been introduced.
However, it was concerned free parking for the disabled would be removed from Crescent and Highfield Road car parks.
Mayor Doreen Savage said even with the increases charges were still "extremely reasonable" and competitive with other towns.
"We are talking about 30p when no-one thinks twice about spending 30p on a bar of chocolate or packet of sweets. We have to view these charges in the light of life as it really is," she said.
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