Harleston's new ally in parking fight

The fight to keep free parking in Harleston yesterday revved up another gear as the south Norfolk town won support from fellow campaigners in North Yorkshire.

The fight to keep free parking in Harleston yesterday revved up another gear as the south Norfolk town won support from fellow campaigners in North Yorkshire.

In a gesture of solidarity, objectors to car parking charges in Northallerton united with those in Harleston to simultaneously unfurl a 100ft long concertina banner in the centres of both towns, depicting all the shops in Harleston thought to be at risk if fees are introduced.

The symbolic display highlighted shared concerns, and marked a national call for motorists, residents and business to speak up about the problems that car parking charges bring.

Letters have been sent to newspapers across the country asking them to publicise the Harleston campaign, and trigger a “wake up call for politicians who are not listening”, while hundreds of post cards have been sent to Conservative leader David Cameron asking for his help.

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Resident Fiona Smith said: “I like to shop local and want to continue doing so. And my fear is we will lose our shops because it is not just the customers but the people who work in the shops that will have to pay up.”

Sue Kuzmic, of Harleston and District Car Parks Group, added: “At the last count there are 12 shops closing in Diss (which has parking charges). We need to wake up and realise that our market towns are dying and something drastically needs to be done across the country.

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Marcus Grover spokesman for Northallerton area pressure group, Action Free Parking, said both towns are faced with plans to

introduce charges which could bring devastating changes to their quality of life.

“Local shops are vital. Without them the heart would go out of the community and we share the same deep-seated worries as our colleagues in Norfolk. Life is hard enough for independent retailers yet our councils seem determined to push them over the cliff edge,” he said.

“We must act together to challenge these unwelcome changes.”

If Conservative-led South Norfolk Council implements the proposals without change, it will cost £5 a day to park for over 4hrs at the district's short term 'shoppers' car parks, with the offer of the first hour free and an additional hour subject to negotiation. .

By contrast, all market towns in neighbouring Breckland district enjoy free parking, as does Aylsham and Dereham. It costs £2.10 to park all day at Beccles, while in north Norfolk tourist hot spots like Cromer, fees range from 10p for 20 minutes to £4.50 a day.

At Loddon, the town council has reached agreement with South Norfolk Council to have two hours free parking. But at Harleston a row has erupted between the authority's leader John Fuller and members of the town council and car parks group, as to who is to blame for the failure to arrange talks over possible parking concessions.

South Norfolk's full council will consider the proposals at its meeting on May 12.

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