Meeting over car parking charges

A MOVE to charge motorists in to park in car parks which are currently free of charge has polarised the views of business leaders in two Suffolk towns.

A MOVE to charge motorists in to park in car parks which are currently free of charge has polarised the views of business leaders in two Suffolk towns.

Babergh District Council is considering its budget for the next financial year, and councillors have not ruled out charging drivers in its car parks for the first time.

Although revisiting the parking charge issue had been ruled out by the council's scrutiny committee, according to its chairman Richard Kemp, some councillors at a strategy committee meeting questioned the judgement.

Now different viewpoints have opened up between the Chambers of Commerce in Sudbury and Hadleigh.

Sudbury Chamber's executive continues to view parking charges as likely to drive shoppers away from the town, but Hadleigh's executive has been discussing a form of moderate charging at the town's main car park in a bid to create more parking space for shoppers.

John McMillan, president of the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said: "We are fairly certain it would drive shoppers away. A lot of the places we are in competition with are places like the out of town stores.

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Another thing we have looked into is the cost of manning car parking and it looks fairly expensive. 80% to 90% of the money collected goes into the cost of collecting and enforcing. You have to have traffic wardens to enforce it."

Martin Freeth, president of Hadleigh's Chamber of Commerce, said its executive committee had been looking at the possibility of introducing modest charges at the town's main car park in Magdalen Road.

He said Hadleigh was short of parking space and charging at Magdalen Road, might persuade people who worked in the town and parked there all day to use other free parks, leaving more space for shoppers.

Nick Ridley, (Conservative, Brook) told the meeting: "Car parking seems to me a considerable area of raising revenue. I know the feelings of the Hadleigh and Sudbury members, nevertheless we are one of the few councils in the country that is not considering it.

"It worries me that it's been pushed into the long grass again for next year. I do think we should bite the bullet and do something about it because we are going to find it very difficult to identify any new sources of income and if we don't I think we are going to find ourselves in an impossible position when it comes to setting the budget."

No decision to pursue parking charges was made at the meeting.

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