Move to scrap free parking in North Walsham angers campaigners
Car parking chiefs have been accused of 'playing scrooge' in the run up to Christmas after announcing their plans to scrap free spaces at two sites in North Walsham.
North Norfolk District Council is pushing through wide spread changes that would introduce charges at the Midland Road and Mundesley Road car parks, both popular spots for shoppers and other regular visitors to the town.
They will be made available only to those motorists with a season ticket, which can cost up to �200.
The authority says the extra �100,000 expected to be made by the charges - along with hikes at car parks in Cromer, Sheringham, Holt and Wells - will help plug the �900,000 funding gap it is now facing.
Finance chiefs said the increase was a 'reluctant' decision but if car parking did not go up, council tax would have been hiked.
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But the 'shock' move in North Walsham has been slammed by community leaders across the board, and worried business owners who fear the town could become unattractive to shoppers when the charges are brought in next April.
Nick Lee, vice chair of North Walsham chamber of commerce, said: 'It's amazing that in the current economic climate the council is hindering local businesses. This will help to stop the local economy growing just to raise a little extra cash for the council's coffers.'
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His thoughts were echoed by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb who added: 'I am amazed by this decision. I urge the council to think again. This makes life more difficult for local businesses. We should be doing everything we can to support our local towns.'
They said the announcement was also a bolt out of the blue for North Walsham councillors who they claimed were not consulted about the proposals.
Town mayor Vivienne Uprichard said: 'It's deeply worrying when councillors in Cromer make decisions that can have such a detrimental impact with no knowledge of the local economy. I would expect the cabinet to have some form of discussions with local representatives.'
The car park increase has been agreed by the council but will undergo a consultation period, during which objections can be made. The hikes would then be finalised at the end of the consultation.