Free parking initiative celebrated in Bury St Edmunds 

Mark Cordell says ‘Free from 3’ has been welcomed by many businesses in Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Our Bury St Edmunds

An initiative launched in Bury St Edmunds 11 years ago is celebrating providing almost a million free parking spaces for visitors to the town centre.

“Free from 3” operates in the town’s short stay and on-street car parks on Tuesday afternoons, making a total of 1,635 parking spaces available at no cost during the promotion.

The scheme was an idea put forward to the then St Edmundsbury Borough Council (now West Suffolk Council) by the Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds BID in January 2013 as the local authority considered its budget for the year ahead. 

The council had been reviewing its car parking charges at the time and had commissioned a report which looked at various options.

Chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds BID, Mark Cordell, said: “Car parking is something that almost everyone using the town centre has an opinion on and in 2013, as it was under review, I engaged with councillors and officers to make the views of businesses known. 

“I am delighted that West Suffolk Council has now continued to support the ‘Free from 3’ initiative for more than a decade and we know that it makes a significant difference to businesses in the town – especially those where customers need to make appointments to visit.  

“I hear from a number of established BID businesses that since its launch, Tuesday afternoon has gone from a quiet trading time to one where people will seek appointments knowing that they won’t have to pay to park. Free parking is, of course, always welcome but especially when the cost of living has risen sharply.”

The initiative was formally launched at the start of the council’s financial year in April 2013. 

The Abbeygate Cinema is one of the many businesses in the town to have benefitted since it was introduced. 

General manager Gareth Boggis said: “We offer a number of screenings on Tuesday afternoons and evenings because the free parking is a bonus for our audience members. Some like to take in a film first at around 5pm and then enjoy a meal in town. Others like to know that they have time to get here for a 7pm screening because they haven’t had to wait until the usual night time tariff begins.”

Councillor David Taylor who is West Suffolk’s cabinet member for Operations added: “We know that availability of long and short stay, as well as flexible pay on exit parking, all managed through tariffs, is important for the town centre and the local economy and our car parks have been busy with lots of people visiting the town centre throughout the week. 

“Free from 3 was introduced to encourage visitors on what was originally a quieter afternoon in the week. 

“West Suffolk Council continues to work strongly with partners including Our Bury St Edmunds to support the sustainable growth of our town centres and it’s great to hear the feedback around the success of this initiative.”

Details about car parks, street parking and tariffs can be found on the council’s website at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/parking

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