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Plans to introduce new parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh postponed indefinitely

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New parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh, due to come into effect in January have officially been postponed, Babergh District Council’s new cabinet member has confirmed.

Plans were voiced by Conservatives at the council last month to kick plans to reduce free parking into the long grass.

Now, Dr Sian Dawson, the new cabinet member for the environment, who has responsibility for waste, licensing and public realm, has confirmed the planned January start date for the changes has been postponed.

Proposed new parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh have been postponed. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Proposed new parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh have been postponed. Picture by Mecha Morton.

She said: “The Conservatives have continued to listen to our residents, parish and town councils, businesses and others, and understand free parking in our towns is an emotive subject for many.

“I recommended to Cllr John Ward [Conservative council leader] to make the decision to postpone the implementation of the new tariffs indefinitely, while we continue to prioritise supporting our businesses and welcoming people back to our high streets.

“Parking, of course, remains a very careful balancing act, between the immediate needs and visions for our towns, those of the whole district, and our environment.

“I am hopeful we can be financially creative over coming months to finance the loss of subsidising our car parks, and continue to help our towns to thrive.”

Any new implementation date or tariff changes are unlikely to be before 2023, according to Dr Dawson, as a district-wide parking strategy is currently being worked on.

The original plans had been to reduce free parking across the district from three hours down to one.

That was because subsidising free parking cost the district council between £185,000 and £210,000 per year.

But it prompted a backlash from businesses and divided councillors who said the high streets needed all the support they could get after Covid-19.

The Conservatives have also appointed Great Cornard councillor Simon Barrett to the cabinet with the finance portfolio who will be tasked with making the numbers work so that free parking can be kept.

But opposition groups have expressed their dismay.

Clive Arthey, deputy council leader who heads up the Independent group, said: “Babergh as a mixed but united cabinet took the difficult, but very necessary decision last February to reduce free parking from three hours to one hour and adjust the payment structure, in order to reduce the annual deficit of £210,000 needed to run and maintain council car parks and better manage their use.

“The Independent Group members on the cabinet, and we believe others too, feel those car parking charges should be implemented from January to help cover the cost of the shortfall, and that would be to the benefit of the whole district.

"Further delaying work to improve the car parks is a retrograde step and shows no commitment to the long term provision of well maintained, well managed and usable parking.

“Analysis has provided no evidence that longer term free parking is the reason people come to towns to shop or visit, but rather they come for the offer provided by local businesses and attractions.”

Leigh Jamieson, leader of the opposition Green group said it was “disappointing news”.

He added: “We supported the principle of charging for car parking, but wanted a clear plan to ring fence any income raised for improving local buses, cycling and walking in and around Hadleigh and Sudbury.

“It is costing the council hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to maintain car parks. That means everyone who pays council tax, even if they don’t have a car or choose not to drive, is subsidising those who do.

“This U-turn by the Conservative group on the council means that even the small amount of funding for improvements in buses, cycling and walking that was due to be funded from car park charges under their former policy, will be postponed indefinitely.”

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