Leading figures in the community have voiced their reaction to a decision to keep a pair of car parks in a Norfolk town as free at point of use.
The issue of parking has plagued Harleston for about 18 months, but a decision was finally reached after the East of England Co-operative agreed to contribute £30,000 a year for a new, long-term lease for the next 10 years.
The new lease is between Redenhall and Harleston Town Council and South Norfolk District Council, following an advisory parish poll vote in September.
The cost to the council will be £37,000 per year for the lease, while it will need to put aside £13,000 per year to pay for future maintenance and resurfacing work.
As part of the agreement, the lease cost will rise annually with the retail price index (RPI).
South Norfolk Town Council voted unanimously to approve the decision on Monday.
We’ve been servicing the community of Harleston for many years as a retailer and are pleased that customers and visitors to this wonderful town will continue to be able to park free of chargeNick Denny
Speaking to the Diss Express, Clive Attwood, chairman of the Harleston and District Business Forum, said the Co-op’s intervention was a “white knight” for the town’s situation.
He added: “What a relief after 12 months of real anxiety for Harleston as to whether or not we were going to lose our free car parking.
“What a statement of faith in Harleston from the Co-op, with over £4 million invested in our town.
“It believes in Harleston, it encourages local producers, it employs local people and it wants to be part of local enterprises.
“It is time to put aside the past and look to the future of Harleston and district just as the Co-op has demonstrated.”
Richard Bacon, Member of Parliament for South Norfolk, echoed this view.
He said: “As both the local MP and a regular shopper in Harleston, I am delighted that the future status of the town’s public car parks has been secured.
“The East of England Co-op deserves high praise for its public-spirited gesture, which will ensure that the town’s car parks stay free for shoppers and visitors alike.
“I trust that this welcome news will allow local traders and the parish council to enter the run-up to Christmas with renewed optimism”.
Nick Denny, joint chief executive for the East of England Co-op, added: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Redenhall and Harleston Town Council.
“We’ve been servicing the community of Harleston for many years as a retailer and are pleased that customers and visitors to this wonderful town will continue to be able to park free of charge.”
The new East of England Co-operative store was officially opened on Thursday by local community advocates Annie Chapman BEM and Carol Wiles MBE.
All of the former Budgens colleagues have been transferred to the local retailer, joining the team from the former East of England Co-op food store in London Road, which has now closed.