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Petitions launched in Halesworth and Beccles against parking changes

PUBLISHED: 08:43 30 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:43 30 October 2015

Blyburgate car park, Beccles

Blyburgate car park, Beccles

© Archant 2015

"We have to act" - that is the message from a town which fears proposed changes to its parking will hit the high street.

Anne Fleming, chairman of Halesworth Town Council.Anne Fleming, chairman of Halesworth Town Council.

Waveney District Council is consulting on a number of changes to parking across the area, which would see the end of Halesworth’s one hour free parking in the Thoroughfare.

At an emergency public meeting called by Halesworth Town Council this week, chairman Anne Fleming heard from town residents and people living in the outlying villages.

She voiced her disappointment that the town was not informed of the proposals sooner, but said: “We’re here now, and we have to act.”

Around 70 people gathered at the Rifle Hall to discuss the plans, which Mrs Fleming said were “bound to have a detrimental effect on Halesworth shoppers.”

She added: “Halesworth will become less attractive as a shopping and business centre.”

A representative from the St Elizabeth Hospice charity shop in the town expressed her concerns that the loss of free parking would put people off dropping off their donations.

Concerns were also voiced about the detrimental effect proposals would have on the town’s cafes, as a free hour gives people time to do their shopping and stop for a coffee.

Mrs Fleming said: “The eateries in the town will do very badly out of this and they are all doing so well at the moment, and long may it continue.”

Suffolk County Councillor Tony Goldson, who also attended the meeting, said he was “dead against” the proposals.

Residents are now being encouraged to write to Waveney District Council’s chief executive to voice their concerns, and sign a petition which is available in Coopers, the book shop, the library and Halesworth town office.

Waveney’s cabinet member for operational partnerships Stephen Ardley said: “We genuinely understand the frustrations that people feel whenever charges are raised for any service.

“However, this is the first time that we have undertaken a review of car park charges for four years and these proposals have been carefully prepared to strike the right balance between generating essential income to off-set service costs and encouraging high visitor numbers to our towns and shopping centres.

“There is simply no way to sugar coat the fact that Waveney District Council, like many other local authorities, is facing considerable financial challenges and we simply cannot sustain the low charges that we have carried for four years without review.”

“The free hour for Halesworth and Bungay is not offered elsewhere in the district and was only ever supposed to be a temporary measure for one year.”

Over in Beccles, councillors have welcomed the changes.

The proposals were discussed at a meeting of the assets and environment committee on Monday, with councillors voting unanimously in favour of accepting the proposals, which would see the town’s car parks increase by 10p per hour.

Chairman of the committee Graham Catchpole said: “There hasn’t been an increase since 2011. We currently pay 60p an hour, obviously we would prefer not to go up but at some point things have to.”

The changes would also see the car parks in Newgate and Hungate become short stays, which Mr Catchpole said would be good for shoppers.

Blyburgate would keep its free hour parking spaces, but would lose the short stay only red bays, which would become regular car parking spaces to accommodate all-day parking. Although people would still be able to park for one hour if they wished.

However Richard Stubbings, who runs Kulture Shock in Blyburgate, said they saw an increase in footfall when short term parking was introduced in Blyburgate, and that taking it away would be bad for nearby businesses.

He has started a petition against the changes, which is available to sign at Kulture Shock.

The proposals are yet to be discussed in Bungay. Mayor Olly Barnes said: “This is an agenda item for this month’s meetings and we are working with the chamber of trade and others on this issue.”

•What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Beccles and Bungay Journal Letters, 20 Blyburgate, Beccles, NR34 9TB or email bbj.letters@archant.co.uk

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