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Review into Newmarket parking charges is thrown out of High Court

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A Newmarket town councillor’s bid to have new parking charges and rules reversed have been thrown out by the High Court.

In June, Cllr Andrew Appleby fired the starting gun on a judicial review, asking the judges to investigate the way the West Suffolk Council arrived at its decision to put up charges in its car parks across the area.

If successful, it would have seen the district authority have to defend its decision to hike charges in court. But the London court threw out the bid.

Car Parking, Market Square, Newmarket
Car Parking, Market Square, Newmarket

“My error seems to have been to assume that councils should show due diligence, not least in public consultations,” Cllr Appleby told the Journal.

“Reality seems to be that consultations do not have to be adequate, merely sufficient – they can be next to nothing just so long as they are something, even slightly more than nothing,” he said.

The Guineas car park in Newmarket
The Guineas car park in Newmarket

“It appears sufficient for councils to pronounce a period of consultation, they do not have to go to any great lengths to publicise it, they can pay lip service to the notion of public involvement.

“Most of the councils of Suffolk are controlled by one political party and the various cabinets can take decisions, even without reference to their own party members, confident that councillors will toe the party line.”

He added: “ I am firmly of the opinion that West Suffolk Council’s decision was motivated purely to milk the cash cow of parking
income, not to address parking problems of residents.

“I am also of the opinion that addressing the problems of residents would actually generate more sustainable parking income which would be more beneficial for all.”

Last year the district launched a car parking review group, led by then independent Cllr David Nettleton, to evaluate car parks across the district.

But when it gave its findings in January, a week before the district by-election in Newmarket and Neighbourhood Plan referendum, the committee which was chaired by now Conservative Cllr Nettleton said the ‘group decided not to provide a view on parking options in respect of Newmarket’.

The next month, cabinet approved parking changes in Newmarket, making it the only town not to have the changes consulted on or discussed in public.