Council backs free hour parking move
Shoppers will enjoy at least one hour's free parking in south Norfolk market towns under a controversial review of the district's public car parks. South Norfolk Council overwhelming voted in favour of the proposals that will see charges introduced at Loddon for the first time, with the local supermarket contributing £5,000 annually to enable an additional second hour free parking before fees kick in.
Shoppers will enjoy at least one hour's free parking in south Norfolk market towns under a controversial review of the district's public car parks.
South Norfolk Council overwhelming voted in favour of the proposals that will see charges introduced at Loddon for the first time, with the local supermarket contributing £5,000 annually to enable an additional second hour free parking before fees kick in.
Diss and Wymondham will also benefit from the free hour, while an overall increase in charges will be lower than predicted - with all day parking (over four hours) pegged at £3 instead of the £5 originally envisaged, and season tickets up from £150 -£240 when £300 was forecast, with 50 per cent concessions for some residents.
However, the wrangle over charges is set to rumble on at Harleston with the town council disputing claims that it has agreed in principle to lease the car parks from South Norfolk Council for an annual fee, in order to maintain free parking - which has been the focus of a high profile campaign waged by the local community.
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At Monday's district council meeting, the authority's leader John Fuller said the aim of the review was not to make a profit, but to give better service for car park users and encourage greater use of market towns.
“I now feel we have a solution before you that meets every single one of the six criteria we set out last September. It suggests the best possible chance of breaking even and allows shopkeepers to compete on an even basis with supermarkets. If only 10 per cent of those people who might have gone to supermarkets go to local shops, this council will have done traders a great service,” he stressed.
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However, Murray Gray of the opposing Liberal Democrat group, described the proposals as “a dog's breakfast” that was totally inconsistent.
He told Mr Fuller: “We have been negotiating with town councils under duress. It's a terrible way to deal with them. You didn't consult Harleston and Loddon before you took the decision to have proposals to introduce charges across the district.”
Lynne Aldred, vice chairman of Harleston Town Council, said after the meeting that no decision about leasing the car parks has yet been made.
“It is not an agreement as such, and it will go before the town council when we have agreed terms on both sides. We haven't met with the business people yet and we have got to consider the interests of the residents. If there are financial implications we have got to find out what it means for them,” she explained.
But Mr Fuller said had had received a letter from the town clerk confirming the deal had been accepted in principle subject to a legal agreement. “If there is wrangling it is not with us,” he added.