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Decision to scrap controversial Market Hill car park closure, in Sudbury, labelled as ‘victory for common sense’

The decision to scrap the controversial closure of a car park in a Suffolk town has been labelled ‘a victory for common sense’.

In February, Sudbury Town Council agreed to go ahead with its pilot scheme to shut part of Market Hill to traffic between May and September.

The experimental scheme would have seen parking bays at the north end removed in a bid to boost footfall by creating more space for outdoor dining and events.

The decision to scrap the controversial closure has been praised. Picture: Mark Westley
The decision to scrap the controversial closure has been praised. Picture: Mark Westley

However, due to mounting opposition Suffolk County Council, which handles the traffic regulation orders needed for such a move, has decided to scrap the plans, a spokesperson revealed.

The spokesperson said: “Based on a number of reasons, including opposition from a number of local businesses, Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders, we have decided to withdraw proposals to introduce a seasonal closure of Market Hill in Sudbury to traffic due to the potential detrimental impact to footfall and trade in the town.”

Cllr Paul Clover who, together with the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, surveyed 53 businesses, labelled the county council’s decision as a victory for common sense.

Some of the feedback from businesses included concerns the extra space would not be as beneficial as intended, with many worried customers would stop shopping as often due to reduced parking.

He added: “The takeaway here is that if a council is looking to introduce a change of circumstance that impacts residents and business stakeholders alike then they are duty bound to fully engage with the electorate they represent.

“In this instance, very little effort has been made to find out what people thought.”

On the other hand Cllr Tim Regester, who welcomed the scheme, said he had been left astounded by the county council’s decision, arguing it had been reached based on flawed evidence.

He said: “This experiment was consulted upon two years ago, there was no need for the Chamber of Commerce to survey businesses, with a survey so biased it left no option for any respondent to express support for the experiment.

“I do not recall the chamber professing any view on the plans two years ago, but now it is animated enough to actually do something.”

Cllr Regester also suggested the county council should reimburse the town council and Babergh District Council for the taxpayers’ money wasted on bringing the project to this stage.

The scheme was initially agreed in 2022, following a consultation period which started as early as January 2020, was originally meant to take place the following year before it was delayed to give businesses more preparation time.

But Cllr Clover said the scheme had been inadequate to begin with, with the consultation period not being thorough enough.

He added: “The town council proposal was presented as an experiment — surely it cannot be appropriate to be conducting experiments on projects that can badly affect people’s livelihoods without thorough assessment or consultation.”

The plans to close part of Market Hill come against the backdrop of the now approved changes to parking charges within Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham, with concerns for both being raised during February’s town council meeting by several residents.