Council leader responds to potential increase in car parking fees but fails to dispel any rising costs

The leader of West Suffolk Council has said there’s still a way to go until any final decisions are made on car parking proposals but has not ruled out the possibility of increased charges being made or retaining the ‘Free from 3’ initiative in the town.

A West Suffolk Car Parking Review Group, made up of councillors from across the authority, published its proposals on Wednesday, January 15. Those are due to be considered by West Suffolk Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, January 23.  That committee will debate and decide what proposals should go forward for consideration by Cabinet.

The Council’s Cabinet, which ultimately will make any decisions on car parking changes, will consider the recommendations on February 11.

Earlier this week a petition was launched by the Facebook group “We Love Bury St Edmunds!” campaigning against any increases and the retention and the “Free from 3” scheme. It started a petition calling for two days of free parking.

The petition said: “In these times of struggling high streets, with pressure being put upon local businesses of high business rates (as set by central government), and high rents, increasing charges for parking would be detrimental to the businesses and success of the town. We want Bury St Edmunds and its businesses to become more successful and stronger because we believe in what we have and do not wish to lose it.”

Mr Griffiths said: “I would like to thank both the review group for all the work they have put in and also all those who have so far contributed to this challenging and often emotive review. It would of course be premature for me to comment on any of the recommendations at this stage, not least because they are still to be looked at by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and subject to change before again being considered and finally decided upon, by Cabinet in a month’s time.

“We look at car parking routinely – though this is the first full review across West Suffolk in four years – and constantly look at how to best manage our car parks including how long people are staying for, the balance of short and long stay parking, where car parks are nearing capacity and other factors. Within that tariffs are just one of many mechanisms for managing demand including the turnover of spaces to support our town centre economies.

“Our main priority always is for the continued prosperity, environment and safety of our communities and businesses, and this of course does come at a cost. The council for example pays for the ‘Free from 3’ initiatives as well as close to £1 million Business Rates on its car parks. We also continue to invest in maintaining and improving our car parks and town centres and making sure they are efficient, safe and welcoming … and any surplus from parking revenues helps towards doing this.

“We also have an excellent relationship, and will continue to work closely with the local BIDs, Bury and Beyond, town and parish councils as well as the Chamber of Commerce to not only make sure that West Suffolk continues to be an attractive place for people to live, work, shop and visit but also to make sure that the facilities needed are funded in the best , and fairest, way.

“Cabinet looks forward to the outcome of the discussions at Overview and Scrutiny Committee before considering their proposals and taking the final decisions in mid-February.”

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