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Controversial changes to parking charges in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham revealed

Controversial changes to parking charges in two Suffolk towns and a village have been revealed.

Being faced with a £6.7m budget gap over the next four years, Babergh District Council announced it could no longer pick up the £452,000 car parking bill in Sudbury, Hadleigh, and Lavenham.

To partly offset the gap, the council proposed to cut free parking and introduce a new tariff structure from the next financial year, sparking criticism from residents and councillors alike, with a petition against the proposals reaching nearly 9,000 validated signatures.

Station Road Car Park at the Kingfisher Leisure Centre. Picture: Babergh District Council
Station Road Car Park at the Kingfisher Leisure Centre. Picture: Babergh District Council

Today, the council has released its proposals, which are set to be discussed by members of the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, March 18.

Babergh’s leader, Cllr David Busby, said: “We have said all along that we would rather not have to introduce short-term parking charges, and that if we have to do so, we will ensure that they are modest, fair and that we take on board suggestions and feedback from the communities affected.

“There is no escaping the fact that we face a significant financial challenge ahead. Although the recommendations in this proposal help in part, they do not solve the whole problem — there will be further difficult decisions ahead.”

The proposals include the introduction of a £1 charge for one hour in short stay parking — now capped at four hours — and two hours for a long stay, increasing by 50p increments each additional hour.

The council is also proposing to reduce the cost of all-day parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh from £3 to £2.50 — this would include parking in Great Eastern Road (Roys) and Magdalen Road, which are proposed to change to long stay parking.

The report also includes a second tariff option which would see an extra 20p overall being added to the above prices.

Alongside these increases, the proposals would also see the price of season tickets increase from £25 for one month, to £30, and from £250 for a year, to £300.

The changes are not only expected to improve the council’s overall budget by around £750,000, but also help the council improve car parking, enhance enforcement, and go toward sustainable travel such as cycling, shuttle buses, and e-bike facilities.

But Cllr Paul Clover, who launched the petition opposing the changes, said the proposals had been released too soon after the end of the consultation period, which ended on Wednesday.

He added: “It shows that they’re not prepared to listen to what the people want or whether it’s a good thing for businesses. They always wanted to implement these charges, it’s pre-determined.”

During the consultation, 42 respondents, or 48 per cent, said the introduction of charges would be detrimental to the high street — further comments also pointed out lack of public transport meant residents needed parking to access shops.

The council has also confirmed it had no plans to introduce charges for parking on Sundays or bank holidays in all three towns, and that blue badge holders will continue to be allowed to park for free for up to three hours in any bay of all council car parks.

Refund arrangements would also be implemented for users of the council’s leisure centres at Sudbury and Hadleigh in order to promote active lifestyles.