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Angry Newmarket councillors call for re-think on reintroduction of parking charges

Angry Newmarket town councillors have called for a re-think on the reintroduction of parking charges in the town.

The charges for car parks run by West Suffolk Council were suspended in March in response to the coronavirus crisis but came back into force last week.

At their meeting on Monday, councillors agreed they could not support the move at the current time when many people had still not returned to work and felt in would have a detrimental effect on High Street trade.

Drivers in Newmarket now have to pay parking charges. Pictured, St Mary's car park (37055309)
Drivers in Newmarket now have to pay parking charges. Pictured, St Mary's car park (37055309)

Cllr Ollie Bowen called the move ‘short-sighted’ and Cllr Sarah Caesar said: “We are effectively charging people to queue."

Cllr Chris O’Neill said social distancing and having to queue for shops was impacting on the time shopping trips were taking and the length of time people were having to park.

Resident Douglas Hall also spoke at the meeting and said on the day parking charges were reintroduced parking wardens had targeted a number of residential areas in Newmarket.

After the meeting he said: “They have given people, many of whom are furloughed, working from home, do shift work or are unemployed at the moment an extra cost at a time when many can ill afford it.

"I understand the need to raise sufficient income to cover the costs and upkeep of car parks as well as the need to enforce penalties against those parking illegally, my issue is around the timing especially at this crucial time for our local economy.”

Councillors were also critical of the new pedestrian system imposed by the management of The Guineas shopping centre.

Cllr Peter Hulbert said: “It is completely wrong and the shopping centre is losing customers because of it.”

Cllr Julie De’ath said: “Common sense has left the building” and questioned whether the closing of the double doors into the centre, often used by customers with disabilities, was a fire hazard.

Cllr Sarah Caesar said the centre had created a maze for its customers and Cllr Chris O’Neill said government advice had been misinterpreted. “You don’t need a two metre gap from queues,” he said.

In a letter to the council, centre manager, Ross Mckittrick, said:”Whilst we understand the frustrations and difficulties that this is causing we deliberated long and hard about these measures prior to instigation and felt this was the only way to maintain social distancing, ensure we do not exceed the maximum permitted capacity and do everything we can to ensure we are contributing to the national effort to lower the R rate and beat the coronavirus.”