Charges set to be introduced at North Walsham free car park - and town leaders are angry
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Charges are set to be introduced in a free north Norfolk car park this month, despite a storm of protest from community leaders.
From October 31 motorists using North Walsham's Mundesley Road car park will have to pay to use the site, which is badly pot-holed.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) chiefs are set to spend up to £70,000 resurfacing it and think they will make about £6,000 a year when it becomes pay-and-display.
The council's cabinet is expected to approve the measures on Monday when members are also set to scrap unpopular evening charges across the district and allow those buying 24-hour £5 NNDC parking tickets to use them in any of its car parks.
Three free 30-minute slots would also be established in NNDC car parks on Morris Street, Sheringham; The Meadow, Cromer; Bridge Street, Fakenham; High Street, Stalham; Bank Loke, North Walsham; Albert Street, Holt, and Staithe Street, Wells.
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Mundesley Road car park has been free for three hours, although many motorists, including those who live and work in the town, leave their vehicles there all day.
Local leaders claim North Walsham's particular circumstances should be considered. They say it has less street parking than other towns, loses vital trade to Norwich and that charging would deter shoppers at a time when the town centre economy was fragile.
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Nick Lee, chairman of North Walsham Chamber For Business, said: 'This move will not increase NNDC revenues, rather lower them as it will cause businesses to close and therefore less shoppers will use the current pay and display.'
Nigel Lloyd, an NNDC member for North Walsham, said shoppers who currently used the car park to 'pop in' to Mundesley Road businesses would take their trade elsewhere.
North Walsham Town Council is furious at what it considers to be poor consultation, accusing NNDC of: 'a lack of consideration and respect for the town and its elected representatives.' Members agreed on Tuesday to protest again.
Eric Seward, town, district and county councillor, said: 'The problem in this town is a lack of free car parking for a limited time. Three free spaces in Bank Loke won't make up for losing 60-80 free spaces in Mundesley Road.'
After discussions with NNDC which started in 2011, the town council opted in July last year not to take over Mundesley Road car park and keep it free because members felt it was too much of a liablility.
Tom FitzPatrick, NNDC leader, said the council had decided to end free parking across the district and had to treat all towns the same.
Fakenham also faced competition from both Norwich and King's Lynn but its town council had increased its precept so that it could keep its Highfield Road car park free.
Mr FitzPatrick added that North Walsham would benefit from a £70,000 investment on the site.