More than 100 people were present for a heated meeting between Redenhall with Harleston and South Norfolk Council as discussions over car parking in the town took place.
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 local parish councils, businesses in the town, and the town council.
There is a big hole in the coffers for Harleston which has got to be foundDavid Disney, Senior Economic Growth Coordinator
But South Norfolk Council said in November the would take over the running of the car parks from September 2017, where charges could be introduced. They 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 parkers was met with anger from residents.
One business owner from Weybread said she decided not to open a business in Harleston after the plans were revealed, while others said it would cause harm to businesses and facilities in the town.
One argued they were not aware of any issue of a lack of available spaces in the town.
After a unanimous vote from the public backing free parking, town council chairman Barry Woods said a steering group would be formed of residents, businesses and two councillors to find the best way forward.
Sandra Dinneen, Chief Executive of South Norfolk Council, said they would be open to negotiations over a lease.
Councillor Lee Hornby, South Norfolk Cabinet Member for Regulation and Public Safety, told the meeting: “You all must understand we do need to balance our books as a district.
“We represent the whole of South Norfolk. Harleston is just a part of that.
“We are not the bad guys in this.”
David Disney, Senior Economic Growth Coordinator at South Norfolk Council, said during a visit to Harleston in June, he said more than 250 cars were parked across the town — but said there “was not a soul” in the town.
“There is a big hole in the coffers for Harleston which has got to be found,” he added. “Why should 128,000 people (in the district) pay for car parking for 5,000 people in Harleston?”
Redenhall with Harleston Town Council chairman Barry Woods added: “It is quite clear that the people in Harleston want to look into leasing the car park.”
Mr Woods revealed that this year, 77 per cent of the lease figure to South Norfolk Council was coming from the town council, 15 per cent from businesses, and eight per cent from surrounding parishes and donations.
Some residents disputed South Norfolk Council’s figures on how much the car park would cost to run. The district council claimed it would cost about £81,000.
Redenhall with Harleston Town Council was offered an option of an extra hour’s free parking in previous negations, at a cost of £15,700, which was turned down.