Halesworth parking issued to be raised with government

Halesworth Town Council Chairman Anne Fleming

Halesworth Town Council Chairman Anne Fleming - Credit: Nick Butcher

Concerns about a market town losing its one-hour free parking spaces and facing a rise in car park charges are to be raised with the government.

Councillor Stephen Ardley

Councillor Stephen Ardley - Credit: Archant

Halesworth Town Council, which objects to Waveney District Council’s (WDC) district-wide proposals to remove the one-hour free car parking in the town and raise other car parking fees has submitted three alternative plans to the district.

All three plans, which the town council say would be financially viable according to figures given to them by the district council, have been rejected.

Car parks across Waveney create a budget shortfall of over £130,000 per year and Waveney says the one hour-free parking in Halesworth costs the council £34,000 annually in lost revenue.

The income from Halesworth car parks is around £65,000, although this figure is before costs to the council to manage, maintain and repair them.

Chairman of Halesworth Town Council Anne Fleming said: “The arguments concentrated on the fact that Halesworth was already a net contributor to WDC coffers so should not morally be penalised by having to pay for shortfalls in income elsewhere in the Waveney area.”

The town council called an extraordinary meeting of councillors and residents on Saturday night to discuss the next step, where it was voted that a letter be sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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Councillors also voted to reject a suggestion that the parking shortfall be funded by an increase in the town precept.

Mrs Fleming said she feared the loss of free parking in the town would tempt people to go elsewhere, which would have a devastating effect on local businesses.

She said: “Halesworth has very little on-street parking, unlike other towns in Waveney, nor does it have extensive free supermarket or similar retail outlet parking available to visitors.

“Halesworth draws its clientele for shopping from both itself and a large surrounding area of villages.

“It therefore has to compete for car and shopping visits with non-Waveney towns such as Diss, Harleston and Saxmundham, where extensive areas of free parking are available.”

WDC defended its decision to end the trial and raise charges to get back the £34,000 of lost revenue, which the council says is needed to protect services for ‘vulnerable communities’.

Cabinet member for operational services Stephen Ardley said: “Waveney District Council has worked closely with each of the affected market towns in the district and explained very clearly that the challenging financial circumstances we face mean that tough decisions have to be made if we are to protect our most important services for our most vulnerable communities.

“We are pleased that discussions elsewhere have, in the main, been productive and that solutions have been found. We are particularly pleased with the solutions reached in Bungay to the benefit of the town. Discussions with Halesworth, however, have not been productive.

“The proposals presented by Halesworth simply do not stack up in terms of parking patterns and all the risk would remain with Waveney should revenue not increase sufficiently.

“Waveney District Council has been placed in an impossible position by further reductions in Government funding, leaving a projected budget gap for the council of around £5 million in 2019.

“Faced with this challenge we simply cannot afford to subsidise free parking schemes which were only intended to run as a 12 month trial.

“The other market towns have understood this, acknowledged it and sought to work with us to reach a mutually acceptable position. Halesworth’s entrenched stance benefits no-one and we are very disappointed that we are unable to resolve this issue.”

Vice chairman of the town council David Thomas said: “Waveney District Council wants to use Halesworth car parking as a cash cow to support loss-making car parks in Lowestoft.

“I don’t believe that the parish of Halesworth should cough up £34,000 a year for an indefinite amount of time.”

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