One-hour free parking plan unveiled

SOUTH Norfolk Council is considering introducing one hour of free car parking across all its short-stay car parks in a bid to encourage shoppers into its “fragile” market towns.

SOUTH Norfolk Council is considering introducing one hour of free car parking across all its short-stay car parks in a bid to encourage shoppers into its “fragile” market towns.

The proposals would prove a boost to shoppers in Diss and Wymondham where charges are currently levied, and come after the authority revealed it was considering introducing car parking charges in Harleston and Loddon, where parking is currently free.

Yesterday, council leader John Fuller said the council was keen to adopt a consistent approach and did not want some towns to be given an unfair advantage.

A report to councillors, due to be discussed at a meeting of the council's scrutiny committee next week, said that after a review, officers believe it could be affordable to allow a period of one hour free parking in all short stay/shoppers' car parks.


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But the document continues: “However, in order to ensure that the costs of providing car parks do not fall on the council tax payer, it would be necessary to increase the existing charges in order to fund this.”

Mr Fuller said that any increase in charges would not be substantially more than is currently agreed and that he thought the proposal ought to be welcomed by most.

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The report also suggests that it may be possible for a group of residents, or businesses, to “upgrade” to a second free hour's parking in exchange for an annual contribution.

“If that local community feels this would make a significant impact, such an arrangement could be accommodated and welcomed,” the document says. A third option suggests that a group may request to lease a car park.

Mr Fuller said: “We have to be fair to all communities and adopt a consistent approach. But one thing to come out of this is that we can support our fragile market towns such as Diss, where there have been shop closures over the last few weeks. It is important we send out the message that the council must do everything it can to support shops by making it easier for people to shop local.”

Mr Fuller thanked residents who had been involved in dialogue about the car parks and the residents of Harleston who recently handed in a petition signed by more than 5,000 people calling for parking to remain free.

He said the scrutiny committee would be discussing the report at its meeting on Wednesday and that officers would report to a Cabinet meeting on February 25. A final agreement will rest with full council at its meeting in May.

Car park improvements are due to be carried out in the meantime.

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