Petition against Breckland parking charges attracts more than 10,000 signatures
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition against the introduction of parking fees in Breckland.
There was anger and disappointment in the district's five market towns when Breckland Council - previously committed to free parking - agreed to spend �25,000 on a feasibility study to explore the option of charging.
It needs to save about �3.5m over the next five years and car parks cost around �350,000 a year to run, members have said.
The petition was launched by Breckland Labour Group in mid December and has been signed by traders, shoppers and residents in Dereham, Swaffham, Watton, Thetford and Attleborough.
Leader Terry Jermy said he expected many more signatures in the weeks to come as interest continued to grow.
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'There is huge awareness of the issue now,' he said. 'I'm getting lots of phone calls from shops wanting more and more petitions.
'People feel very passionately about this.'
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Mr Jermy, a Thetford town councillor, was in Dereham this afternoon (Friday) to meet campaigner Maria Almeida, who has collected 820 signatures in the town.
'For one person to collect that many signatures on their own is amazing,' he said.
There are fears that charges could deter visitors to the town centre, which has lost several shops in recent months, and lead to motorists parking in residential areas.
Ms Almeida has also compiled a number of statements from shop workers explaining the impact charges would have on the town centre and their own pockets.
'A lot of people travel from surrounding villages to work in the towns,' Mr Jermy said. 'They already have to take into account the cost of fuel and sometimes child care. Parking charges could make the difference between whether they can afford to work or not.
'Many shop staff are on minimum wage and even if it's only �2.50 a day, that's �50 a month.'
Ms Almeida said people across Norfolk had been keen to sign her petition and she thanked all those who had supported her.
Dereham Chamber of Trade and Commerce held a public meeting on Wednesday and the 80-strong audience voted to unanimously oppose the introduction of charges.
Members of Thetford Town Council, Watton Town Council, Swaffham Business Forum and Wayland Chamber of Commerce have also objected.
Breckland Labour Group's petition can be found at www. http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/noparkingchargebdc.