Council insists parking offers ‘non-negotiable’ as Harleston must make decision by end of October

Harleston. General views of the high street and town.
Harleston. General views of the high street and town.

South Norfolk Council has insisted its position on car parking in Harleston is ‘non-negotiable’.

The town’s car parks were once again on the agenda at a Redenhall with Harleston Town Council meeting on Wednesday night.

We have continued to work with the town council to achieve the best outcome for the residents of Harleston and of South Norfolk

But newly-elected chairman Frances Bickley insisted nothing had been decided – claiming it would be silly for the authority not to explore every avenue to get the best deal for the people of Harleston.

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller has given a deadline of October 31 for a decision to be made on the car parks in Bullock Fair and Broad Street.

Three options, and their various costs to the council, were presented to Harleston residents in the form of a parish poll earlier this month – one hour of free parking, two hours of free parking, or for the town council to negotiate a new long-term lease, to keep them free at the point of use.

The results of the advisory vote showed residents backed the new long-term lease option – securing 345 of the 620 votes.

A new long-term lease would cost the town council £50,000 a year, made up of £37,000 for the lease, £13,000 for the sink fund; plus £17,523 of additional costs, including business rates, litter picking, and legal costs.

Mrs Bickley revealed the Co-op, which had taken over the former Budgens store in the Bullock Fair Car Park, had expressed an interest in supporting the vote’s result.

She added the Co-op would be carrying out their own commercial assessment on the rental value of the car park, before reporting back to the town council.

South Norfolk district councillor Clayton Hudson (Beck Vale ward), congratulated the town council on holding the parish poll – and insisted it should not accept South Norfolk Council’s figures.

He said he believed the ball was in Redenhall with Harleston Town Council’s court – and said he fully supported it in any negotiations with the district authority, or any counter offers proposed.

“Just don’t accept the offer South Norfolk Council has said to you – don’t feel you need to go and write a cheque for £50,000,” he told councillors.

South Norfolk Council Cabinet member Lee Hornby said: “We have continued to work with the town council to achieve the best outcome for the residents of Harleston and of South Norfolk.

“We extended the lease on the two car parks by 12 months to allow negotiations to take place and we have extended it again to allow the town council to conduct a parish poll.

“Although we own the car parks, we are not trying to impose a decision on the town council; we have given them three options, one free hour at no cost to the council, two free hours at a cost of £15,700 or a new lease at a cost of £50,000.

“We are now waiting to hear which of those three options the town council will choose and they have until 31 October to let us know of their decision, mindful of the result of the parish poll.”