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Approval of contentious new Babergh District Council parking charges for Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham called in for review

The approval of controversial new parking charges in Babergh will be formally reviewed – amid allegations that the decision was pre-determined – as opponents make a last-ditch attempt to block the plans.

On Monday, Babergh District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee is due to assess the decision made by the authority’s cabinet last week to introduce new parking tariffs in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham.

A majority of cabinet members voted to remove the three-hour free parking and introduce new fees in council-owned car parks, in an effort to offset a predicted £6.7 million budget gap over the coming years.

Station Road car park Sudbury. Picture by Mark Westley.
Station Road car park Sudbury. Picture by Mark Westley.

However, a cross-party group – Sudbury pair Alison Owen (Labour) and Tim Regester (Green), Great Cornard’s Ruth Hendry (Green) and Hadleigh representative Kathryn Grandon (Independent) and Simon Dowling (Green) – have now called the decision in.

The five councillors argue the decision was both unreasonable and ‘without due regard to the significant level of public contention it has provoked’.

They cited the extensive public opposition from the public and affected local authorities and suggested the matter would have been defeated if it had gone to vote by full council, rather than just the cabinet.

“This decision ignores the substantial weight of evidence gathered by the council’s own engagement exercise and by the petition organised by Cllr Paul Clover,” the call-in statement reads.

“Several letters of objection have been submitted by town and parish councils and councillors in Hadleigh and Sudbury carried out opinion surveys, which revealed a substantial majority of car park users and businesses opposed the proposals.

“But the proposals submitted to cabinet were almost entirely as originally conceived, showing no substantive change in response to representations by councillors.”

At a meeting of Sudbury Town Council last Tuesday, Cllr Regester acknowledged the call-in was ‘a long shot’, but added it was a ‘last-chance saloon’ to stop the proposed parking charges.

Cllr Owen added: “I worry that if we don’t do something, we will lose everything. We’ve got to have strength.”

At the town council meeting, members voiced outrage at the decision, while praising the efforts of Sudbury councillor Jessie Carter – one of the two Babergh cabinet members who objected to the plans.

“It’s absolutely shameful,” said Steve Hall. “The decision was so pre-determined that certain cabinet members said they have sat through this before. It absolutely stunk.

“I praise our Sudbury councillor for the way she handled it and put her personal circumstances on the line to try to advise the rest of the cabinet about the problems there would be.”

Peter Beer said townspeople did not trust Babergh District Council and called on its leadership to come before the council and face questions publicly.

“At the end of the day, the public are going to have to pay to park here and the shopkeepers are going to suffer.

“It’s quite clear this is disastrous for Sudbury. I really cannot understand how anyone can think this will help Sudbury. I think we’ve been hung out to dry.”