Car park charges reinstated as town centres reopen

As more people start to work in and visit town centres again, car parking charges are to be reinstated across West Suffolk from Monday 15 June to manage demand on spaces.

Parking tariffs are to remain at the old levels when they are reinstated with permits available for certain care workers. Managing car parks through charging ensures parking turnover for shops and the availability of long stay spaces for workers.

West Suffolk Council suspended parking charges in March following the stay at home guidance, to help key workers and allow residents to park there so not to block roads needed for emergency vehicles.

With Government guidance allowing more people to return to work and shops to reopen from Monday, it is important that the council manages car parks to free up long stay spaces for workers and short stay for visitors. We are already seeing increasing numbers of people visiting town centres and using the car parks. Income from parking helps pay for, town centre security, cleaning and maintenance of car parks and enforcement – all of which are essential to make sure towns remain attractive and safe to shoppers and visitors to the benefit of all. Business Rates for the Council run car parks cost nearly £1million a year.

Previously, as a result of a parking review, new tariffs were due to be launched in early April but these increases will not be introduced at this time. However, other aspects of the parking review such as Free from 3 Mondays in Newmarket from Monday 15 June, and improvements to All Saints Car Park in Newmarket from Monday 22 June to Friday 26 June will go ahead. During this time that car park will be closed to the public but access for residents will be maintained. The Council meanwhile is speaking to utilities companies to coordinate resurfacing works at Grosvenor Yard before investment goes ahead there.

Qualifying critical care workers who need to park in town centre car parks as part of their work will be able to get free permits from their employers.

West Suffolk is already working with partners to help businesses manage social distancing in town centres and build confidence that they are safe places to visit. Everyone has a role to play in this, from businesses implementing measures to residents sticking to the guidance.

Physical markers will be in place at machines to help maintain social distancing. Customers are encouraged to pay by RingGo or contactless card payment where possible. Those paying by coin are advised to use gloves or hand sanitiser as they would in general for shopping.

Whilst needing to reinstate tariffs as a means of parking control, price increases approved earlier in the year following a car parks review remain suspended.

Leader of West Suffolk Council Cllr John Griffiths said: “We recognise that high streets nationally and locally face new ways of working and new challenges, and we are here to help them meet those changes as part of the town centre’s recovery.

“We will continue to work with our town centre partners to ensure they are safe places for people to shop and for businesses and their staff to safely operate and we will continue with the phased reopening of our markets which of course play an important part in all of this. We’ve already prioritised and paid out around £34m in Government business grants to business including retail, around another £34m in rate relief and having lobbied Government on their behalf, we are now paying out grants to other small businesses including our market traders.

“Alongside all of this is the reinstatement of car parking tariffs which manage spaces and keep long stay spaces available for town centre workers and shorter stay spaces options for visitors. The income from parking is all reinvested in the car parks and associated activity such as town centre CCTV , street cleaning and enforcement, all of which supports our town centres as places of economic, social and cultural activity.

We are however continuing to suspend planned tariff increases which we will keep under review and look forward to helping shape the recovery and the future of our high streets.”