Public debate in Dereham about parking charging proposals for Breckland market towns

Business owners and shoppers have been invited to a public debate about controversial proposals to introduce car parking charges across Breckland market towns.

Breckland councillors agreed during a cabinet meeting to spend up to �25,000 on a feasibility study, and this could lead to motorists paying to park.

The meeting has been arranged by Dereham's Chamber of Trade and Commerce and is due to take place next Wednesday, from 6pm to 8pm, at the Dereham Memorial Hall, in Norwich Street. Representatives of the council have also been invited to speak.

Ian Philpott, chairman of Dereham's Chamber of Trade and Commerce, 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. 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.

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'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'.

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On Saturday, Mr Philpott will be giving out cards, opposing parking charges, to drivers in Dereham's Cherry Tree car park from 9am until noon. The same cards have been given out to businesses in the town.

Terry Huggins, chief executive of the council, said: 'At this time we cannot say how the introduction of charges will compare with other alternatives. What I can say is that no decision will be made without a dialogue and consideration of the points being made by residents and businesses.'

Petitions against the proposals have been set up in Watton and Thetford, which have been signed by thousands of people. Members of Watton Town Council, Swaffham Business Forum and Wayland Chamber of Commerce have also voted to oppose parking charges.

Posters against parking charges have also been put up in several Swaffham businesses. For more information about the posters ring Kate Francis on 01760 722800.

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