7:41 PM December 7, 2021
Businesses’ fears about their recovery from the pandemic was a key factor in Babergh postponing changes to free parking in the district.
Plans had been approved earlier this year by the authority’s cabinet to reduce free parking from three hours to one to address the £185,000+ annual cost of subsidising parking, due to come into effect in January.
But last month it was confirmed that the change has been postponed indefinitely after much political quarrelling behind the scenes.
It left the Babergh District Council Conservative, Independent and Liberal Democrat cabinet deeply divided, but Conservative council leader John Ward addressed fears on Monday.
He told the cabinet: “Yes, the cost of providing car parks must sensibly be borne at least in part by the users so we can free up funds for services for all our residents and yes, we do want to encourage transport modal shift for those living close to the town centres, but the question of whether the reduction from three hours to one hour free parking will or will not have an impact on businesses is really at the core of the controversy and it is clear that there are strongly held views on both sides.”
Mr Ward said that the independent businesses in the districts two biggest towns, Sudbury and Hadleigh, were doing ‘reasonably well’ but added: “We must also acknowledge that many businesses are fearful that any change to parking charges at the moment could affect what is for some a slow recovery from Covid.
“Irrespective of whether any effect is real or not, that fear exists and as a result of this we have made a further postponement of the tariff changes.”
While an indefinite postponement has been made for now, Mr Ward stressed that any future consideration would need to be done in such a way that it could consider “how we can make any future charges more palatable” for businesses.
Deputy council leader Clive Arthey, leader of the Independent group, had disagreed with the postponement decision, stating that it would help cover the costs of subsidising parking.
He said the delay is a ‘retrograde step’ that ‘shows no commitment to the long term provision of well maintained, well managed and usable car parks’.