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Street parking fees on the way in Waveney?

PUBLISHED: 12:52 03 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:52 03 January 2014

Deputy leader of Waveney District Council Stephen Ardley.

Deputy leader of Waveney District Council Stephen Ardley.

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Car parks across Waveney could be redeveloped for housing, retail and leisure use as part of a comprehensive review.

And one option to be explored could see new charges introduced for on-street parking.

A radical new approach to parking provision across the district will be outlined to councillors next week. The strategic car park review, looking at more than 50 car parks across Waveney, is to be discussed next Thursday, at Lowestoft town hall.

Waveney District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee will receive a presentation citing “the need” for a strategic review after a decline in town centre economies and a reduction in car park income. The report, produced by a joint working group made up of officers from Waveney, Suffolk Coastal, and their operational partners Suffolk Coastal Services and Waveney Norse, is described as the “largest, most comprehensive review” of car parking that has been undertaken to date.”

Among the ideas put forward is a vision for the redevelopment of Battery Green multi-storey and Whapload Road car parks in Lowestoft into a “premium retail and recreation attraction”– similar to Castle Mall and Chapelfield shopping centres in Norwich. It has been dubbed the Sunrise Mall.

Other options will be considered for uncharged car parks in Beccles, Bungay, Lowestoft, Wrentham and Southwold along with the possible disposal or redevelopment of under-performing charged car parks.

Also mooted is a joint application with Suffolk County Council to the Department for Transport to charge for on-street parking across Waveney, with enforcement by Waveney Norse.

The review considers what steps can be taken in response to the decline in car park revenue. With income from car parking having historically been one of the largest sources of local revenue for Waveney – worth about £1.5m to £1.8m per year – the report to councillors states that since 2010, there has been a “standstill” in car parking income received, meaning the council is facing a budget shortfall of about £400,000.

It adds: “Over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a general decline in town centre activities, mainly due to an increase in out-of-town retailing and the growth of internet shopping. As a result, there has been a decline in visitors to town centres and their associated car parks.”

The group has found that car park income across Waveney has been generated by 15 car parks and car park service provision has not “kept pace with economic, technical, social, demographic and legislative changes.”

One of the key review findings also highlights a “loss of revenue” from one-hour free parking trials in Bungay and Halesworth.

Stephen Ardley, the council’s deputy leader, said: “The decline in car park revenue comes at a time when revenue generation has never been more important. The reduction in finance we receive from Government due to their austerity measures places greater pressure on us to generate income and it is clear that we need to take bold steps forward to turn this situation around.”

He added: “The working group have undertaken an extremely thorough study of car parking capacity and patterns in Waveney and this important work will enable us to better judge the appropriateness of fees and tariffs for each given facility. However, there is a far bigger picture in which all options are on the table. We could consider radical and exciting ways not just to revitalise the car parking provision but also encourage greater economic growth, jobs and housing. The sky is the limit,” Mr Ardley said.

Tod Sullivan, chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee and leader of the Labour group, said: “We are anticipating a very thorough review of car parking across the district in two parts. Next week will give us a comprehensive overview of the current situation. In March the committee will advise upon what to do with the car parks after careful review of the presentation.”

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