Ticket machines will be installed in Harleston if no decision made by October 31 deadline

Parking sign.
Parking sign.

Harleston’s car parks will be fitted with ticket machines if South Norfolk council is not informed of a decision by October 31, the Diss Express has learned.

Three options have been put to Redenhall with Harleston Town Council over the future of the car parks in Bullock Fair Close and Broad Street. They are currently free at the point of use, but the town council pays a lease agreement, supplemented by contributions from businesses and surrounding parishes.

We know we are on a tight deadline and that is uppermost in my mind because I know what South Norfolk have said and what their stance is

Frances Bickley

By default, if a decision is not made, the car parks will begin charging– with one hour of free parking.

Chairman Frances Bickley said the council was still awaiting to hear from the Co-op, who are taking over the former Budgets store in the Bullock Fair Car Park.

They were due to carry out their own commercial assessment on the rental value of the car park, before reporting back to the town council.

Mrs Bickley added the Co-op was aware of the October 31 deadline for a decision.

“We know we are on a tight deadline and that is uppermost in my mind because I know what South Norfolk have said and what their stance is,” she told the Diss Express.

“Until we know the Co-op stance it is difficult to make a formal decision on what we are going to do.

“It is very frustrating as I can see time slipping away.

“I have had it suggested to me by another councillor we send an open letter to South Norfolk Council to saw we are still working behind the scenes with the Co-op and feel to have that deadline it is quite a bit of pressure.”

She added in an “ideal world” a decision would be made at the next council meeting on October 18.

However, she stressed the deadline was at the end of the month, and did not rule out convening an earlier meeting, should they receive more information from the Co-op.

The agenda for the October full council meeting in Harleston will be decided early next week.

South Norfolk Council Cabinet member Lee Hornby said. “We’ve been talking to Harleston Town Council for more than a year trying to get an agreement.

“We’re not trying to impose a decision, that’s why we extended the lease by 12 months to allow negotiations to take place and we extended it again until 31 October to allow the town council to conduct a parish poll.

“The town council now has a meeting on 18 October and we wait to see which of the three options they will decide to take.

“If the town council doesn’t make a decision then after the 31 October the car parks will revert to South Norfolk Council and our district wide policy is to install parking machines with the first hour free.”

Three options, and their various costs to the council, were presented to Harleston residents in the form of a parish poll earlier in September – 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.