No free Christmas parking this year

RICHARD BATSON Christmas shoppers in north Norfolk are missing out on a car parking “free gift” this year because of vandalism and thefts from ticket machines.

RICHARD BATSON

Christmas shoppers in north Norfolk are missing out on a car parking freebie this year because of vandalism and thefts from ticket machines.

Last year, festive present-hunters enjoyed fee-free, two-hour parking on the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas.

The previous year, North Norfolk District Council allowed free all-day parking, costing it £15,000, but cut it back because people abused it by parking close to the railway station and taking the train to Norwich.

Any hopes of a festive parking perk this year were knocked on the head by a spate of thefts from, and damage to, ticket machines.

Council resources director Sheila Oxtoby said break-ins, thefts and vandalism had cost the authority £3,000 in direct income, and more would have been lost while machines were out of action.

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Repairs had cost £2,870. But the biggest cost was £9,000 from introducing nightly emptying of the machines during the summer.

The total bill had wiped out the sum that would have enabled the free Christmas parking.

Car parks hit by thefts and damage included those at Overstrand, Happisburgh, Sea Palling, Weybourne and Fakenham.

Council property services manager David Feltham said the break-in figures were well up on last year.

They were concentrated in six weeks over summer and were mainly at remote sites not covered by security cameras - those are installed at main town car parks.

North Norfolk council has plans to upgrade ticket machines to make them more robust and to install security lighting - as well as using a mobile CCTV unit on rural car parks.

At Weybourne, the thieves used oxy-acetylene cutting equipment to get into a parking ticket machine, which

would have taken a while, added Mr Feltham.

There had also been an increase in vandalism - including spraying foam into machines and damaging the workings - which took another £5,000 to repair, he said.