Thousands sign petition against proposals for parking charges across Breckland

An online petition against proposals to introduce parking charges in Breckland towns has attracted 7,000 signatures on the eve of a pivotal public meeting.

The petition was launched by the Breckland Labour group on December 15 and leader Terry Jermy said he originally thought the document would be signed by 5,000 people.

Breckland Councillors agreed this month to spend up to �25,000 on a feasibility study, a move that could lead to motorists paying to use council parks in Dereham, Swaffham, Watton, Thetford and Attleborough.

A public meeting about the parking issue is due to take place tomorrow from 6pm to 8pm at Dereham's Memorial Hall, in Norwich Street.

The debate has been arranged by Dereham Chamber of Trade and Commerce and representatives of the council have been invited to speak.

Mr Jermy, who spent Saturday morning at the Tesco store in Thetford collecting signatures, said: 'There has been phenomenal support for our petition and I am delighted that we have now collected over 7,000 signatures. There is across the board support against the introduction of charging for car parking in Breckland.'

Separate petitions against potential parking charges have also been set up by the Wayland Chamber of Commerce, which has collected more than 5,000 signatures in Watton High Street businesses, and Maria Almedia, of Dereham, who has collected 1,800 signatures in the mid Norfolk town.

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Mr Jermy hopes to present all three petitions together to the council after the feasibility study has been published.

'Combined with the publication of the feasibility study, coupled with the public not supporting it, I think that will knock the issue on its head for the time being,' he added.

Mr Jermy said he thought the study will show that not a lot of money would be collected by charging for parking.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said at the weekend he planned to carry out a survey on people's views about the idea of car parking charges in Breckland market towns.

He added: 'It is vital that as many people as possible gave their say. Getting parking right has been shown around the country to be key to keeping town centres like Dereham vibrant.'

Swaffham Business Forum and Watton Town Council have also voted to oppose any introduction of parking charges and protest posters have been put up in Dereham and Swaffham.

Terry Huggins, chief executive of Breckland Council, has 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.'

Anti-parking posters for Swaffham can be obtained by ringing Kate Francis on 01760 722800.

Mr Jermy will be collecting signatures for the Breckland Labour group's petition in Swaffham this Saturday morning, Watton on Wednesday, February 8 from 11am, Dereham the following day from 11.30am and Attleborough on Saturday, February 11 from 11am.

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