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Car Parking Charges – A Tale of Two Towns

January 20, 2021 12:09 PM
By Councillor Dave Busby

4c9m (Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash)Let me start by saying that I hate paying for car parking with a passion. I will always look for somewhere to park for free even if it results in a mile walk in both directions. I have never paid for car parking in Ipswich (apart from in the evenings) and would, irrationally, be quite happy to turn round and go home if I can't find a free space.

In 18 years as a Councillor, I have never supported the introduction of car parking charges in our market towns. I accept that financially it is inequitable for council tax payers who either don't have a car or live in the east of the district and as such are unlikely to make use of the free car parking. After all, Babergh operates on a principle of only including in its council tax demands services that are likely to be used by all. Take the example of garden waste collection - there is a separate charge for those who want to use this service and many people are happy to pay the additional fee.

Visitors to a town are enticed in by the goods and services on offer, the ambience, the convenience of getting into the town and generally the likely experience as a whole. If I want people to visit me at home, I don't start the process by charging them to park on my drive. The cost of providing the drive is one I am happy to bear and maybe the same should apply to the businesses in the towns. So, if we accept the principle that car parking charges are only designed to cover the costs of operation then wouldn't it be better if the car parks were owned by the town? It would then fall on them to recoup the costs of operation directly from the businesses who benefit.

However, that scenario is unlikely to occur any time soon, so back to Sudbury and Hadleigh.

Sudbury:

It would seem that something more radical is required to stem the decline. There are ongoing projects to improve Belle Vue Park, Hamilton Road, Borehamgate and Market Hill and funds are being spent on the leisure centre, Gainsborough House and a new health centre. Will these add up to the radical solution? A trickier problem is the volume of local traffic and some junctions that are operating at over capacity. Perversely, introducing a nominal short-term car parking charge may have a positive affect on all of the issues outlined above.

Hadleigh:

Natural growth in the town and surrounding villages will help maintain Hadleigh's viability, in other words, if it isn't broke don't fix it. There seems little sense in making a 'one size fits all policy' for parking across Babergh when each car park serves a different purpose and audience.

So as much as I am against charging for car parking in our towns there is probably a good argument in favour of a nominal charge of say £1 in Sudbury but Hadleigh should remain free for the moment.

Tomorrow we will cover the revolt this proposal has caused and the Councils response