Redenhall with Harleston Town Council chairman Barry Woods says South Norfolk Council has behaved “abysmally” as the row over parking in the town intensifies.
Businesses, residents and Mr Woods have voiced their concern over potential plans from South Norfolk Council to introduce car parking charges in the town from September 2017.
The district council issued a press release earlier this week ahead of a public meeting, due to take place tonight, claiming a ‘bespoke package’ remains on the table to Harleston which would allow for the continuation of free parking in the town.
South Norfolk Council says the press release was issued in response to an article from Mr Woods in publication the Harleston Grapevine.
A spokesperson said the council wanted to put “the facts on the table” and added: “We just wanted to make sure the people of Harleston knew what was on offer to the town.”
But Mr Woods told the Diss Express: “I am profoundly disappointed that South Norfolk Council have taken the step of an independent press release just before a public meeting which is being held precisely to discuss the matters in hand.
South Norfolk Council’s behaviour in the past year has been disrespectful of Redenhall with Harleston’s Town Council, and the residents it represents, but this behaviour has achieved an even lower point than any so far reachedBarry Woods, Redenhall with Harleston Town Council chairman
“They can have had no knowledge of what Redenhall with Harleston Town Council is going to say when they made this press release. It is South Norfolk Council who insisted on a confidentiality agreement when we began our discussions.
“On behalf of Redenhall with Harleston Town Council I would state that we would have liked the whole set of proposals discussed in the public arena, but they insisted it should be kept under wraps.
“It would appear that now the imposed confidentiality agreement is at an end, South Norfolk Council feels it is under no obligation to inform my Council that they are even putting out a press release.”
He continued: “South Norfolk Council’s behaviour in the past year has been disrespectful of Redenhall with Harleston’s Town Council, and the residents it represents, but this behaviour has achieved an even lower point than any so far reached.
“It is not helpful, when trying to conduct a conversation between two Councils, to have one council trying to score points off the other council, and trying to make out that there has been some form of dishonesty by my councillors.
“However, Redenhall with Harleston Town Council will continue to strive to achieve the best result for the residents of Harleston and the surrounding villages, notwithstanding the abysmal behaviour of South Norfolk Council.”
South Norfolk Council’s press release said they had approached Redenhall with Harleston Town Council in June with a deal, which they said would benefit “residents and businesses” of the town and the surrounding villages.
It included taking on the management of Harleston Leisure Centre, investing £300,000 into it, removing the recently-installed self-cleaning toilet block, and refurbishment work of the old facilities. It also included South Norfolk Council taking back control of the car parks, covering the £50,000 needed for “required” resurfacing work.
But the council says the deal, which would have seen the leisure centre working with the local school to provide residents with swimming pool access, would have made it “financially possible” for the town council to keep free parking in the town.
South Norfolk Council Cabinet member Lee Hornby said “The benefits to residents, including the possibility of using the swimming pool, and the substantial investment in the leisure centre would be a huge boost to people’s health and well-being. The investment would also enable the town council, if they chose, to continue free parking in the town.
“We listened to the views of residents about the toilets and we have agreed to remove the modern toilets and refurbish the old block.
“We will now take the opportunity of attending the public meeting on Thursday so that we can listen to the views of the residents on our proposal as a whole and it is important not to consider parking in isolation to the other elements of the tailored package we are offering.”
Any proposed car parking charges would not be introduced before September 2017 and would need to be agreed by South Norfolk Council’s cabinet.