Free parking small victory for traders

Traders in Lowestoft who are battling to reclaim lost income after extensive roadworks in the town succeeded in getting free parking on to the agenda of district and county decision-makers yesterday.

Traders in Lowestoft who are battling to reclaim lost income after extensive roadworks in the town succeeded in getting free parking on to the agenda of district and county decision-makers yesterday.

Shop owners met with senior councillors and officials of Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council at Lowestoft Town Hall to negotiate concessions that would bring trade back to the town.

The £17.5m relief road and Sunrise redevelopment scheme lead to road closures and works in the town centre for more than four years and many visitors were put off by the congestion and started shopping elsewhere.

Free parking could now be used to tempt shoppers back, but traders have also pledged to pursue their claim for compensation for lost earnings.

Stephen Ardley, Waveney's portfolio holder for operations and facilities, said he will strongly recommend a period of free parking to the council's cross-party Car Park Working Group.

“It was a very robust meeting and a successful outcome,” he said. “I will be driving hard for free parking, as this will boost visitors to the town.

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“We're holding a meeting of the Car Park Working Group as soon as possible to discuss how and when the scheme could be implemented.”

Leaving the meeting, some traders were frustrated by the outcome.

Carol Raven, who runs the In Time boutique on London Road North, said: “We put all our money into the council, and we are only getting a trickle back. They should be fighting for us.”

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard represented the traders at the meeting, and has lodged a petition with Waveney District Council containing 160 signatures supporting free parking.

He said: “We have got somewhere with the free car parking, and I am hopeful they will come forward with a scheme to attract shoppers into the town.

“The shopkeepers have made their points and councillors are in no doubt that there is a serious danger of shops closing in the town.”

Mr Blizzard also said that although there was no movement on the issue of compensation, traders remained keen to pursue it.

Before yesterday's meeting, Lowestoft businessman Richard Neal, who has represented traders in the town, said: “We are determined to carry on pressing for compensation because businesses have lost so much. Trade has been hit by as much as 80pc.”

Earlier this week Suffolk County Council confirmed they will give £50,000 towards public transport measures to support shops and traders in Lowestoft.

The money, which comes from surplus funds raised through on-street parking at three sites in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, will be used to provide a green transport solution in line with Suffolk's environmental policy.

Guy McGregor, county council portfolio holder for roads and transport, said at a cabinet meeting in Ipswich on Tuesday: “People have been unable or unwilling to get into the town centre and now we want to provide a boost for the town's economy.”

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