Probe after petition missing for months

A PETITION with more than 100 signatures went missing for four months, The Evening Star can reveal today.Determined Charles Tracy wanted an Ipswich car park to stay as it was – and sent a 111-strong petition to Ipswich Borough Council in protest at proposed changes, but never received a reply.

A PETITION with more than 100 signatures went missing for four months, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Determined Charles Tracy wanted an Ipswich car park to stay as it was - and sent a 111-strong petition to Ipswich Borough Council in protest at proposed changes, but never received a reply.

And the first his ward councillors knew of the petition was in January - even though it had been submitted months earlier on September 20.

A top borough councillor has now pledged the matter is being looked into so it never happens again.

South Street car park, manned by pensioners, is currently run by Norwich Road Car Parks Ltd.

But the borough council proposes terminating the company's lease, investing around £125,000 into improving the car park and making it a council-run pay and display.

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First proposed under the Labour-led borough council, the proposal has been continued under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration that came to power in September.

A decision on the future of South Street car park is expected today.

Mr Tracy, of Ann Street, Ipswich, said: "I heard about the plans from one of the old boys who worked there. I was furious.

"I decided to get together a petition. There were signatures from residents in Ann Street, Cumberland Street, Alpe Street, Orford Street, Norwich Road, Cardigan Street, Newson Street and Redan Street.

"I was very surprised I didn't have a reply to my letter or even an acknowledgement."

Martin Cook, borough councillor for Westgate ward, said: "The first we knew of the petition was in the draft report circulated in January.

"It is council policy that ward councillors should be informed of petitions affecting their area.

"I was absolutely horrified it had been received at the Civic Centre four months previously and hadn't been communicated to us in any form."

Inga Lockington, portfolio holder for environment and transport, admitted Mr Tracy should have had a letter of reply and that his ward councillors should have been informed.

She said: "When I discovered this had happened, I spoke to the officers to try to make sure it never happens again."

Mrs Lockington added the matter would be referred to the standing orders committee. She said there was now a full copy of the petition in each party room.

Mr Tracy said the current free parking at South Street car park during the evening and on Sunday is useful for residents.

He added: "People could walk their dogs and we used to play boule there. Why does it have to be like a supermarket car park? It will ruin the area.

"We are also concerned that we won't have those men (manning the car park) who keep the place tidy and discourage criminality. They are pensioners who are going to lose out on their part-time jobs."

Mrs Lockington said: "We are quite keen to take the car park back because it could be improved and be an asset for the area.

"We are offering season tickets for traders, free evening and Sunday parking for residents and low-level lighting. I would hope that all the trees will remain."

The future of the car park is due to be discussed at the council's executive committee meeting on 6pm today.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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