Harleston and District Business forum brands criticism from outgoing council chairman as ‘unfair’ and ‘unwarranted’

MDEP-16-11-2016-033 Broad Street Car Park Harleston
MDEP-16-11-2016-033 Broad Street Car Park Harleston

Harleston and District Business Forum has hit back at an outgoing town council chairman, claiming it has been unfairly criticised.

Barry Woods resigned as chairman of Redenhall with Harleston Town Council during a meeting last Wednesday, with vice-chairman Frances Bickley taking on the vacant role.

Harleston, Norfolk. Barry Woods new chairman of Harleston Town Council

Harleston, Norfolk. Barry Woods new chairman of Harleston Town Council

During the meeting, an emotional Mr Woods said he was “disgusted” by the behaviour of the business forum, as the community continues to search for a solution over the town’s car parking.

A parish poll is due to be held in the town on Thursday, September 7.

The advisory vote will give the three options available to the town council, as dictated by the car park’s owner, South Norfolk Council.

Clive Attwood, chairman of Harleston and District Business Forum, said the criticism from Mr Woods was “unfair and unwarranted”.

The members of Harleston and District Business Forum are sorry to see it being unfairly criticised by Barry Woods

Clive Attwood, chairman, Harleston and District Business Forum

“The members of Harleston and District Business Forum are sorry to see it being unfairly criticised by Barry Woods,” he said.

“The eventual decision on charging for car parking is of great importance to the businesses in Harleston, to residents and its neighbouring parishes. 

“For this reason, throughout the car parking discussions, we have tried to co-operate with the town council, and have suggested a joint approach in discussing the way forward with the district council. 

“All such offers have been refused by Mr Woods, who would never consider alternative proposals.”

He continued: “The town council has never informed residents of the original proposals for the revamping of the gym and swimming pool involving large sums of South Norfolk Council capital, or why that proposal was rejected without consulting the wider residents and businesses of the town.

“Although late in the day, all of us together, with good will, could still achieve the right solution.

“For the former chairman to criticise the business forum is unfair and unwarranted.”

Car parking in Bullock Fair Close and Broad Street is free at the point of use to users – the town council currently pays £17,156 in a lease agreement with South Norfolk.

This is made up of contributions from parish councils, businesses in the town, and the town council.

But South Norfolk Council said in November it would take over the running of the car parks from September 2017, when charges could be introduced.

It said it would bring the town’s facilities in line with other car parks in the district, and would support businesses by discouraging people from parking all day.

Representatives of South Norfolk Council stressed nothing had yet been agreed – but the plan to charge was met with anger from residents.

Three options and their various costings to the town council will go to the public in the advisory vote on September 7.

Residents will get to choose their preferred plan of action for the car parks – one hour of free parking, two hours of free parking, or the town council to agree a new long-term lease, for a minimum of 10 years.