South Norfolk parking charge surplus

Market town leaders in south Norfolk called for a lowering of car parking charges after it emerged that the district council made more than �140,000 profit in fees and fines.

Market town leaders in south Norfolk called for a lowering of car parking charges after it emerged that the district council made more than �140,000 profit in fees and fines.

A controversial new pay and display system was introduced at 13 off-street car parks in Wymondham, Diss, and Loddon two years ago.

Business and town leaders yesterday called on South Norfolk Council to change its fees and extend its free parking time limit from one hour to two.

The plea comes after figures obtained by the Mercury under a Freedom of Information request shows that the local authority received more than �240,000 in charges and fines over the last year and only spent �99,000 on car park maintenance and resurfacing.

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Traders have called on the district council to inject some of the �140,000 surplus back into south Norfolk's market towns to promote enterprise. Others have called on a reduction in the 50p per hour charges to encourage shoppers to stay longer.

But South Norfolk Council leaders said the authority's car parking system was not profiteering and aimed to pay for car park improvements.

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Diss mayor Jane Trippett-Jones said the profits made on parking in the town should be re-invested to help local residents. She added that long-stay car parking in Bury St Edmunds was cheaper than Diss.

'I am unhappy with the car parking situation in Diss. In my opinion the free hour does not encourage people to stay and spend their money in the town and people are in a hurry to get back to their car. There is a balance to be made and two hours free parking would be much better,' she said.

The �140,000 surplus between April 2009 and April 2010 compares to an �88,000 excess in 2008/09 where �169,000 was invested in car park improvements, according to South Norfolk Council.

Dan Gavrovski , of the Wymondham Business Group, said the figures showed that South Norfolk's parking charges were 'not realistic.' He added that a recent request to make the first two hours of parking free had been declined by the council.

'It has killed the town. If you have to pay 50p an hour you might as well go to Norwich because the fees are similar. If you go to a car park where the first hour is free, you are literally clock watching and if you want to go for a meal or hair cut it is simply not viable.'

'It used to be thriving here, but shoppers are trying to get out of town as quickly as possible,' he said.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said the introduction of parking charges had helped shopkeepers by discouraging drivers from blocking spaces all day.

'We spent a substantial sum of money upgrading the car parks two years ago to address a �2m maintenance backlog to bring them up to standard. We addressed that when the economic situation was better and it does need to be paid back.'

'Unlike some of the councils in London who make millions in surplus, our car park charges are meant to break even,' he said.

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