Councils set out parking strategy for the next 20 years

Supporting the needs of local trade and residents, while putting the brakes on climate change – Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have set out their plans for improved parking provision for the next 20 years.

The councils’ first ever joint parking strategy includes prioritised recommendations to improve all types of parking, from council-owned car parks to on-street parking. These include updating signage and markings, increasing safety provisions, providing more EV charging and cycling facilities, and introducing resident permit schemes to allow overnight parking.

It has been created based on feedback from residents’, town and parish councils, as well as other community groups and partners.

Over the course of two consultation periods, more than 3,000 people responded to online surveys sharing their parking experiences and commenting on the recommendations, ahead of the strategy going to cabinets for approval. 175 people also attended in-person roadshow events in June, giving everyone an opportunity to have their say.

The strategy reflects national policy guidance and is also supported by data from several car park studies. These focused on turnover and occupancy of spaces, and current car park conditions, as well as benchmarking similar parking offers elsewhere.

It builds on the councils’ Joint Area Parking Management Plan, and the car parking study report for Babergh, which highlighted the increasing need for a medium to long term parking strategy. Importantly, it also seeks to find the balance between supporting local trade across the districts and achieving climate change and sustainable travel goals, reflecting the councils’ recently approved Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan.

Jessica Fleming, cabinet member for environment at Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “Having a parking strategy that works to ensure everyone has access to sufficient, good quality, safe and welcoming parking opportunities, plays a key part in enabling our districts to thrive. Whether for shoppers, tourists, visitors, residents, workers, and commuters, having the right parking provision in the right places plays an important role in supporting trade and delivering the visions for our town centres.

“Finding a careful balance between private vehicle parking needs and the shift towards more sustainable transport options such as buses, trains, and cycling to connect our communities, will be vital in planning for the future.”

And Elisabeth Malvisi, cabinet member for environment at Babergh District Council, added: “Whether in car parks, outside our homes, on the high street, or at local tourist hotspots, few subjects evoke as much passion as parking. By having a parking strategy in place, we can continue to help our communities to thrive by ensuring we have the right level and types of car parking facilities, and the right controls for their use.

“Crucially, this will include providing even more opportunities to shift towards more sustainable travel, whilst carefully balancing this with the development and regeneration visions of our towns.”

The strategy is set to go to cabinets for approval on October 3.

If approved, the councils will begin creating an implementation plan, working closely alongside other partners such as Suffolk County Council, to enable them to start putting the strategy recommendations in place.

It will also help the councils apply for more funding streams for changes, whether through council budgets, Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) monies, or external grants.

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