Harleston residents will be asked which package of parking they prefer as the deadline for a decision is extended until October.
South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller was among those at a Redenhall with Harleston Town Council single-issue meeting on Wednesday night, attended by dozens of residents.
Parking has been free in the town’s two car parks, in Bullock Fair Close and Broad Street, with the town council paying £17,156 in a lease agreement with the district authority.
But there was outcry in the town from councillors, residents and businesses after South Norfolk Council unveiled a proposal to take back control of the car parks, and implement charges later this year.
South Norfolk Council says it would bring Harleston’s car parks in line with others in the district, and increase turnover of spaces.
Some had hoped – with the current lease on the car park expiring in September – a decision would be made on the town’s facilities on the night.
I can understand why people think that free parking is a real draw but free parking all day will see cars block spaces all day and, believe me, it is not the way that market towns in other parts of the country have prosperedJohn Fuller, leader, South Norfolk Council
But now three offers will be put to residents to find out which they believe is the best deal, along with details of the cost to the council – with Mr Fuller saying October 31 would be a definite deadline.
Mr Fuller faced questions from business owners and said their proposals were “evidence based” – but claimed increasing the turnover of spaces close to shops would boost the local economy. He said the council was running car parks to break even – not to make a profit.
“I can understand why people think that free parking is a real draw but free parking all day will see cars block spaces all day and, believe me, it is not the way that market towns in other parts of the country have prospered,” he said.
The three options are:
n South Norfolk Council to take back the car parks and implement their charging structure, with the first hour of parking free.
Bullock Fair Close would become a short-stay car park, with Broad Street becoming long-stay. Car parking free from 5pm to 8am Monday to Saturday, free parking on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Costs to the town council would be any dilapidation the district council feels needs rectifying.
n As above, but with an option to buy a second free hour, giving two hours of free parking to all in Bullock Fair Close car park. Parking would be free from 4pm to 8am Monday to Saturday, and on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The cost to the town council would be £15,700 per annum.
n Take on a new long-term lease for a minimum of ten years. Cost to the town council would be £50,000, 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.
South Norfolk Council looks after 16 car parks, with a combined 1,000 spaces – 200 of which are in Harleston.
Mr Fuller said it costs £400,000 a year to run them – equivalent to £400 a space.
But many residents argued that some of the costs would not be required if parking remained free – there would be no need for the installation for ticket machines and coin collection– arguing a figure of about £29,000, which includes a £13,000 sink fund, a fairer reflection of what the town council should pay for a lease.
One resident, also an accountant, told the meeting: “The costs per space is not the same in every car park.
“A car park with ticket machines and enforcement officers and coin collection and all the rest of it is more expensive.”
Town councillor Frances Bickley said, should the third option of paying the £67,000 a year option, a potential precept increase for tax payers of £28.50 a year on a band ‘D’ property could cover the cost.
Another factor is the Bullock Fair Car Park – where Budgens, soon to be taken over by the East of England Co-operative, owns a number of the spaces in the car park.
Mrs Bickley said “positive” meetings had been held with three senior managers of the Co-op, with all proposals on the table, and they were awaiting a response.