A town council wants to take full responsibility for its car parks from South Norfolk Council in a bid to keep them free to visitors and residents in the town.
Car parking in Bullock Fair Close and Broad Street in Harleston is currently free at the point of use to users, 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.
In response, Redenhall with Harleston Town Council set up a car parks group and, following a study, has agreed to approach South Norfolk Council to discuss, in principle, taking over full responsibilty of the town’s car parks, on a long-term lease for a peppercorn rent.
A spokesman for South Norfolk Council said they had received correspondence from Redenhall with Harleston Town Council, and would be responding “in due course.”
It would mean the town council would be responsible for all of its costs, including resurfacing, management and maintenance.
Frances Bickley, vice-chair of Redenhall with Harleston Town Council, said: “It is accepted that maintaining free car parking in the town is important to the economic and social well-being of the community.
“The town and its surrounding communities are like a large family and maintaining our open, welcome and unhurried enjoyment is vital to our communities’ way of life.
“That is why we have asked South Norfolk Council if it would be willing to discuss with the town council proposals in principle, by which the town council might take over the running of the car parks and all responsibilities, with no future costs resting with South Norfolk Council.
“Agreement to explore this proposal together would be a great opportunity for both councils to play a crucial part in safeguarding and enhancing the economic and social quality of our town.”
She added town councillors appreciated there would be costs involved “which must be covered” and that South Norfolk Council, as owners of the car parks on behalf of residents, would not have any costs.
South Norfolk Council said in November that the proposal to introduce car parking charges in Harleston from September would bring them into line with others around the district – although it would need to be agreed by South Norfolk councillors.
It said it could also help support local businesses by discouraging people from parking all day and blocking up potential spaces for shoppers.
The car parks group was set up in response to a heated public meeting in December, where about 200 residents gave support to the town council to explore ways to keep car parking free at the point of use.