MP George Freeman wants views on car parking charges in Dereham

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman is planning a survey on local people's views on the idea of car parking charges in Dereham and the other Breckland market towns.

The district council is considering ending free parking as part of efforts to save �3.5m over the next five years and has agreed a �25,000 feasibility study.

Mr Freeman held a constituents' surgery at Morrisons in Dereham on Friday and said the issue had been a big one.

'There were lots of concerns about the impact of parking charges. I'm planning on doing a survey and feeding in a submission to Breckland on behalf of Dereham residents,' said Mr Freeman.

Dereham Chamber of Trade and Commerce is organising a public meeting on Wednesday from 6-8pm at the Memorial Hall to debate charges. Breckland officials have been invited to address the meeting.

Ian Philpott, chairman of the Dereham chamber, said: 'One of the major benefits that the towns such as Dereham, Swaffham, Attleborough and Thetford have is free parking and easy access to shops.

'The chamber of commerce is aware that times are tight for everybody, but squeezing the life out of the market towns and driving everybody to Norwich or out-of-town supermarkets is not in anybody's interests

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'Loss of revenue will undoubtedly cause more shop closures and an overall drop in business activity, with a knock-on effect of unemployment and hardship.

'The public are welcome to join the chamber of trade and guests to make their voices heard and say no to parking charges.'

He added that the cost of running a payment scheme across Breckland's car parks would end up creating an 'expensive department spending all the money it collects'.

Mr Freeman said: 'Several people said they had seen my concern at Chambers' closure and my comments in Parliament on Mary Portas' review and the need to have a proper plan for our town centre. It needs to combine the convenience and value of one stop supermarket shopping and easy access to a local, pedestrianised, attractive heritage-'cafe culture' style town Centre around the market place which will draw people in for a coffee, bite and mardle.'

Mr Freeman added: 'Other issues raised by local people on Friday included support for my comments on BBC Radio 5 Live on the cosy and unaccountable bankers' bonus culture, and the need to reward risk and success not failure.

'I don't mind Hester - who remember came in to sort out someone else's mess for us - getting a bonus but only when when he has given us as shareholders a return on our investment – and increased lending to real businesses here in Norfolk.'

Mr Freeman said the surgery had been very useful.

'An MP's first duty is to their constituency. It's important for MPs to be out and about and accessible, and not just at election times. Several people commented yesterday that it was nice to see their MP out and about and available when there isn't an election on.

'These informal supermarket surgeries and farmers market surgeries, and the pint with your MP evenings in local pubs, are working really well. The informal settings mean I get to meet with lots of people who wouldn't otherwise arrange an MP meeting and means I can get a much broader insight into constituents concerns.'

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