People at meeting in Dereham vote unanimously to oppose car parking charges

Traders, shoppers and local people unanimously opposed car parking charges in Dereham and other Breckland market towns.

In a show of hands at the end of a public meeting on Wednesday night organised by the Dereham Chamber of Trade and Commerce, everyone in the estimated 80-strong audience voted to keep parking free.

Breckland Council is spending up to �25,000 on a feasibility study to look at the issue. It needs to save about �3.5m over the next five years and car parks cost about �350,000 a year to run.

Chamber chairman Ian Philpott said the organisation was firmly opposed to charging and said there had been 'cries of horror' since the idea was first mooted.

Fellow chamber member and local businessman Stephen Cross said: 'The fight has just begun. There are already empty shops in the town and anything which puts people off coming to Dereham will make things worse.'

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Breckland chief executive Terry Huggins attended to answer questions and said no decisions had been made but said all the facts had to be gathered.

A wide range of people who use the town centre - including business owners, workers, volunteers and shoppers - claimed charges could force more shops to shut and lead to motorists parking in residential areas.

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Representatives from other towns in Breckland - Swaffham, Thetford, Watton and Attleborough - also attended and voiced similar views about the potential impact of fees.

*The Guildhall car park in Dereham - used by many shoppers at weekends - will be closed this Saturday for re-lining work.

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