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Battle on to save North Walsham’s free car parks

PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 January 2013

Mundesley Road free car park, North Walsham.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mundesley Road free car park, North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

Battle lines were being drawn this week in a bitter row over the future of North Walsham’s two free car parks.

Owner North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) is taking action to make both the Mundesley Road and Midland Road car parks season-ticket only from April 1, costing users up to £200 a year.

The move follows a breakdown in negotiations, stretching back 12 months, which North Walsham Town Council hoped would allow it to lease the car parks from NNDC for two years with the aim of keeping them free.

Town councillors say North Walsham has less on-street parking than any other NNDC town. They fear charging would deter shoppers and penalise Paston College students from remote areas who are reliant on cars.

Now they have voted to mount a three-pronged campaign aimed at highlighting what they claim is NNDC’s mismanagement of the process and calling for new talks.

North Walsham mayor Dave Robertson told Tuesday’s town council meeting that NNDC had shown “downright cheek” in announcing that the negotiations were over.

He had been told by NNDC deputy leader Rhodri Oliver that it was felt too much officer time had been taken up on the matter.

Mr Robertson said: “90pc of the prevarication has been by NNDC. They have mishandled the whole thing.”

He claimed, despite talks in August on the heads of terms agreement for the deal, NNDC had failed to draw up the agreement until November. And when the document arrived it had contained wrong information.

On another occasion NNDC had not responded to a letter sent by the town council on October 1 until October 30.

Town councillors fear residents and North Walsham Chamber of Trade will blame them if the free car parks are lost.

They voted to let Mr Robertson submit a Freedom of Information Act request asking NNDC for all documents and emails connected with the negotiations.

The council is also to investigate lodging a formal complaint against NNDC, possibly with the local government ombudsman. And, if those measures fail, councillors plan to launch a publicity campaign highlighting the issue.

Eric Seward said the appalling, pot-holed condition of the Mundesley Road car park meant that it was not fit for purpose He could not understand why NNDC wanted to turn the two into season ticket only car parks.

An NNDC spokesman said both car park surfaces would be checked and any potholes filled before April 1.

● NNDC’s cabinet is set to recommend a freeze in car-park charges across the district when it meets on Monday. Leader Tom FitzPatrick said there were “places in the district without NNDC car parks, where people have to pay private fees.” The overall package remained “very fair” and all charges would be reviewed as part of the annual budget process for 2014-2015.

NNDC has set aside £180,000 to resurface car parks at Albert Street, Holt, Beach Road, Mundesley, and High Street, Stalham.

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