Businesses in Harleston have spoken out against controversial proposals from South Norfolk Council to introduce car parking charges in the town.
The town is well known for its free parking, at car parks in Bullock Fair Close and Broad Street.
It would be very detrimental to my businessLisa North, Lisa North Photography
But South Norfolk Council proposals, which would need to be passed by its cabinet, would see them revert back to the council’s control.
They said no charges would be introduced until September 2017, and the changes would stop ‘space blocking’ from all-day parkers.
Harleston and District Business Forum chairman Clive Attwood said he would fight the proposals — and now businesses in the town are having their say.
Rachel Smith, who alongside business partner Sue Smith runs Home Comforts in The Thoroughfare, said she was unaware of any issues of a lack of spaces in the town.
She added it could affect trade — with town visitors less likely to stop for a coffee or something to eat after shopping, over a fear of being fined for overstaying in a paid car park.
“I was surprised and shocked because there has been no lead up to that we were aware of, so it did come out of the blue,” she said. “I think it is very bad for the town.
“I think it will also discourage people from taking shops on in the town which are currently empty.”
Lisa North, of Lisa North Photography runs her business Market Place. She said she would be joining the fight to oppose the plans.
“I am very concerned about this, as I am sure most people have said,” she said. “It would be very detrimental to my business.
“Some days it is really busy, such as market day, but in general I find in the car parks you can usually find a space.”
Mike Chappell, proprietor of The Apiary Cake and Coffee House in The Thoroughfare said knock-on effects caused by a potential lack of trade could hit local producers and landlords, and the potential for the town’s businesses to take on or keep on staff.
“Retail is already suffering anyway with what is going on in the economy.
“If they change the parking regulations, it could escalate into a complete disaster for Harleston.”
In a South Norfolk Council cabinet report in October, a vacancy rate of about 12 per cent in Harleston’s car parks was reported, although it highlighted than “an accepted industry standard” should equate to roughly 15 per cent of the total, if the “tariff, provision and policy” are right.
It added: “Town Centre spaces are frequently occupied by long term parking and this is an important issue to consider as we currently do not distinguish between long and short stay car parking options.”