Mixed reaction to parking fees plan

Motorists may have to pay up to £5 a day to park in south Norfolk market towns under a controversial shake-up planned by the district council. At present, parking fees are only levied at Diss and Wymondham.

Motorists may have to pay up to £5 a day to park in south Norfolk market towns under a controversial shake-up planned by the district council.

At present, parking fees are only levied at Diss and Wymondham.

But the authority is now looking to extend the charges to Harleston and Loddon under proposals outlined in a new report that would also see free one-hour parking introduced at all of the council's short-stay “shoppers” car parks in the four towns.

However, this would be countered by a sizeable hike in current charging levels, with season tickets set to soar from £150 to £300 per annum from October 2008, if the recommendations are approved.


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Other suggested increases include: 1hr parking at long-stay car parks - up from 50p to £1; all-day up from £1.50 to £3. It would cost £5 to park for over 4hrs at short-stay car parks - currently £3.

The proposals met with a mixed reaction. Harleston hotelier Robin Twigge, who is a member of the national federation of small business, said: “Charges on these levels will be disastrous if applied. However, I do believe we have time still to negotiate with South Norfolk Council in the attempt to save our market towns.”

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Loddon Parish Council chairman Peter Lloyd was also worried about the scale of the fees. “I would suspect the residents of Loddon are going to be concerned at the cost. People were thinking 30p-40p an hour, they didn't think they were looking at £1. And £300 for a season ticket is quite a bit,” he stressed.

Wymondham Town Clerk Trevor Gurney said that although town councillors believe charging across the district to be a fairer system, they opposed “blanket” 1hr free parking if it meant increased prices to compensate. “We want to retain the status quo in Wymondham”.

But the free parking plan got a resounding thumbs up from the mayor of Diss, Simon Olander, who said: “My personal view is that we are going through a decline in the town at the moment and anything that can alleviate that, and increase people coming into the centre is a good thing.”

South Norfolk plans to fully involve the public in subsequent stages of the car park review, which includes the option of communities paying an additional fee to enable an upgrade to 2hrs free parking.

The authority's leader, John Fuller, said: “For a whole variety of reasons things can't stay as they are. We're now trying to balance differing views from across the whole district to arrive at a fair solution that includes making it free to use our car parks for shopping, whilst covering the substantial costs of operations from people who wish to park for longer periods.”

The report will be discussed by the scrutiny committee on March 12, the cabinet on April 7, and the full council on May 12.

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