Keep parking free in Breckland, urge locals
People in Breckland have given an overwhelming message to the district council - keep parking free.
The authority last week revealed it may consider introducing charges in Thetford, Dereham, Swaffham, Attleborough and Watton, to help plug a �3.5m financial black hole over the next five years,
It is planning to carry out a feasibility study into the idea.
But residents, shoppers and businesses have given the clearest possible message to Breckland that it must look at other ways to find the money.
An online poll run by the EDP and our sister weekly papers has shown 96pc of readers say parking should stay free with only four pc believing charges should be looked at.
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The Breckland-owned car parks - which have a total of 2308 spaces - are all currently free and are at: Attleborough - Queens Square, Horse Pit, Edenside; Watton - High Street, Thetford Road and Kittell Close; Swaffham - Theatre Street, Lynn Street, Pedlars, Station Road, Market Place and Pit Lane; Dereham - Cherry Tree, Swaffham Hill, Guildhall and Cowper Road; Thetford - Warren, Nunns Bridges, Bridge Street, Bury Road, Cage Lane, The Link, Pike Lane, School Lane, St Giles Lane, St Nicholas Street, Tanner Street North and South, White Hart Street, Castle Street, Market Place.
A total of 281 people have voted in our poll, with 266 saying 'no' to charges and only 15 being in favour.
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People have also given their views on the issue. William Morfoot, of Yaxham, said: 'I fail to see why Breckland Council wants to waste any money on a study into the parking issue in the district. Simply, shoppers don't want to pay to park, in particular in Dereham.'
Richard Woods, of Lyng, said: 'Maybe they (Breckland) could just sell off their Barnham Broom investment
and plug the gap that way?'
Peter Nurse, of Toftwood, said: 'A car park charge will inevitably drive some of the out-of-town shoppers into the hands of the likes of Tesco, which has already managed to expand into virtually every profitable niche including pharmacy, electrical and clothing.'
Philip Morton, chairman of the Dereham Society, said: 'I think Dereham Society would add to the debate on car parking and development of the town centre by calling for Breckland and Dereham town councils to take the opportunity to follow up the Portas report by developing a vision for Dereham and a properly funded strategy to achieve it.'
Breckland chief executive Terry Huggins has stressed no decisions would be made until consultations were completed.
'My recommendation to Breckland Council is that they should consider reaching a better understanding of the potential of introducing car parking charges comes at a time when the council faces financial challenges greater than any they have ever faced before.
'The implications of charging for car parking are to be investigated. It will be for the elected members to chose how and from where the saving in public expenditure will be made. My aim is to ensure they have before them the best information on the available options.'