Could new deal keep car parking free in Harleston?

Aerial photo showing the main car park and one in the town centre. Picture: APS (UK)

Aerial photo showing the main car park and one in the town centre. Picture: APS (UK) - Credit: APS (UK)

A 10-year battle to keep a South Norfolk town's car parks free could be resolved by grassroots volunteers taking over the responsibility for running them.

Redenhall and Harleston Town Council has agreed to approach South Norfolk Council (SNC) to discuss in principle the town council's proposal that they take over responsibility for Harleston's car parks.

The decision follows a study of the town's parking options, which was set up following an earlier public meeting in which 200 residents gave support of the principle of ensuring car parking in the town remains free of charge.

Resident Ian Carstairs said: 'I think it's a great step forward.

'What you hear in the street is that people do not just come to Harleston to shop but for the social experience as well - and that changes if you have a time limit.'

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Frances Bickely, vice-chairman of Redenhall with Harleston Town Council, said: 'The town and its surrounding communities are like a large family and maintaining our open welcome and unhurried enjoyment is vital to our community's way of life.'

The town council first entered into negotiations with SNC in 2007 in response to the threat of car parking charges being introduced in the town's car parks.

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At the time it was agreed that the town council would take on the cost of leasing the car parks from SNC to enable them to remain free.

These costs are currently covered by contributions from nine surrounding parishes and 34 businesses in and around Harleston.

Redenhall with Harleston Town Council will now ask SNC whether they would be willing to allow the town council to take over the running of the car parks with no further costs to SNC.

This will enable the car parks to operate as free at the point of use.

It will also mean the town council will enter into a long-term, low-cost lease of the town's car parks, with full responsibility for their management and maintenance, including any required resurfacing.

Mrs Bickley added: 'An agreement to explore this proposal 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.'

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