Row erupts over future of car park

A ROW has erupted in a Suffolk market town over the future of a well-used high street car park.

Elliot Furniss

A ROW has erupted in a Suffolk market town over the future of a well-used high street car park.

The uncertainty surrounds the Chapel Car Park, the main designated spot in the centre of Needham Market for short-term use by shoppers.

For several years the rent for the site has been shared equally between the town council and Mid Suffolk District Council.

But now, much to the dismay of town councillors, the district council, which maintains and collects revenue from the site in fines, has said it will not be renewing the lease, which costs a total of �5,000 a year.

A spokesman for the town council criticised the “short-sighted” action, which it claims could lead to the closure of businesses on the High Street.

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He said: “The town council condemns this short-sighted action by officers of Mid Suffolk District Council which risks loss of trade and the closure of businesses in Needham Market.

“This cannot be justified on the grounds of cost, as stated by the district council, given the on-going refurbishment of the council's offices when they may cease to exist if the proposed unitary authority becomes a reality.”

It has emerged that although a decision on the future of the site was made by the district council earlier in the year and a letter confirming this was sent to the site's owners earlier this month, the town council was not informed of the move until a meeting on October 15.

The spokesman added: “The Town Council has paid 50% of the rent for many years and was not informed of this unilateral decision, which was taken some eighteen months ago, until some days after the e-mail was sent from the district council to the site owners.”

A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk District Council said the reasons not to renew the lease had already been explained in full to the town council.

She said: “As like other councils in Suffolk, we are having to look at our budgets and the services we are providing.

“We fully support that the site should remain a car park but we want to see the town council take the lease on themselves.

“Needham Market has two other car parks, at either end of the High Street, which can be used by visitors, and also has parking available along the High Street itself.”

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