Barrier to stop coaches using car park could damage trade in Fakenham

Highfield Road Car Park, in Fakenham, where a height restriction is being imposed to prevent further

Highfield Road Car Park, in Fakenham, where a height restriction is being imposed to prevent further damage to the surface. - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk District Council says coaches and lorries are damaging the surface of the Highfield Road car park, near the college.

It wants to impose a 3m height restriction, to prevent larger vehicles from using it. Until now tourist coaches have parked there after dropping off their passengers, traders have used the car park on market day, along with lorry drivers making overnight stops.

Fakenham Town Council was not consulted over the ruling, which comes into force this week. Mayor Adrian Vertigan said: 'The feeling we have as a town council is that this will affect trade in the town.

'It may not affect the market as much as the tourist trade we get in the town, especially in November and December when coaches on their way to Thursford visit the town and we have the Christmas tree festival.'

More than 20,000 visit the Christmas tree festival, at the parish church. Many come on coaches from all over the country, which are on their way to the Thursford Christmas Spectacular. Passengers donate thousands to the charities exhibiting at the festival, while many visit nearby shops and cafes.

'If there's nowhere for them to park, it will affect the town, there's a phenomenal amount of trade that comes in,' said Mr Vertigan.

'To make a major decision about a facility in the town without consulting the town council, who are the representatives of the town, is very poor of the district.

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'My personal concern is the next step will be that the land will be developed, we'll lose that land for the people of that area and it will be another nail in the coffin of anther Norfolk market town.'

Announcing the change John Rest, North Norfolk's cabinet member for assets, said the car park was never intended to be used by commercial and heavy goods vehicles and the surface has been badly damaged.

He added the council was facing 'severe financial pressure' and had to do all it could to preserve the surface.

Mr Rest, who represents the Fakenham Lancaster South ward on the district council added: 'There's ample parking for coaches up on the bypass, there's two lay-bys and each can take three vehicles.

'The other option is that the [town] council owns the Trap Lane sports centre, there's no reason they couldn't do a deal with the coaches to park there and earn themselves some revenue.'

Mr Rest said market traders did not use the car park, as they parked their vans behind their stalls. He said the district did not have to consult the town council, because the height restriction was 'purely an operational change'.

'We had to do it,' he added. 'The site is in an appalling state, we need to look at it and decide what to do.'

In a letter published in today's Times, Ann Chappel said: 'Without this traditionally unrestricted parking place, Fakenham will lack any provision for private coaches, or lorries who may need an overnight stopping place.

'This will deter tourists who often break their journey to explore the town, and whose purchases are both needed and appreciated by local traders.

'What is most worrying about this decision being taken behind closed doors, is that all four of Fakenham's elected NNDC members were either unaware of this plan, or totally failed to share their knowledge with the town council of which many were also members.'