The first in a series of changes to make it easier for residents in Bury St Edmunds’ 12 parking zones to find a place to park, will come into effect by early January.
Cllr Peter Stevens, Cabinet Member for Operations at West Suffolk Council has announced that from 9 January 2023, permit holders will be allowed to use the Council’s off-street car parks in Bury St Edmunds town centre at no extra charge, between 4pm and 10am seven days a week. This does not include on-street car parks such as The Buttermarket, Cornhill and Angel Hill.
Residents in the zones were surveyed earlier this year on a number of options to help tackle their parking issues. That survey included the option for permit holders to use the Bury St Edmunds town centre car parks between 6pm and 8am. Although the move got the support of 85 per cent of the resident who filled in the survey, there was feedback that for some households this would cause issues with them having to move their car before they left to go to work or took their children to school.
“We have listened to the residents. We have looked at the times when our car parks are busiest and we are pleased to be able to extend the times of this from 4pm to 10am. We will, however, review the measure after 18 months to ensure it is working and that there’s no negative impact to the availability of parking spaces for shoppers, visitors and town centre workers,” said Cllr Stevens.
The change is one of a number of solutions to try to tackle an ongoing parking issue for residents in the town.
Many of the town’s existing parking schemes are heavily oversubscribed. The legislation under which the scheme must operate means West Suffolk Council is unable to refuse permit applications from residents that live in a designated parking zone.
Part of the reason for this oversubscription is that many of the homes in Bury St Edmunds town centre were built before the invention of the motor vehicle and others from when car ownership was much lower than it is now. The Council warns people buying a permit, that it cannot guarantee them a parking space. It also carries out checks to ensure permits and vouchers are not bought by anyone who isn’t a resident.
Since April 2020, the Council has also been responsible for Civil Parking Enforcement, which has meant residents who previously resorted to parking illegally potentially blocking emergency access, are at greater risk of being issued with fines.
“We recognise that this is an issue for many of the town centre residents which is why we have consulted on a host of options, we have listened, and I’m pleased to announce a package of measures today which takes on board much of the feedback,” said Cllr Stevens. “It is my hope that these measures, once fully embedded, will make things better for the residents so they can park safely near their home, and we will of course review their impact at a later date.”
Other improvements that will follow include extending the parking permit hours. In some zones these are currently 8am to 6pm and others 10am to 4pm. Subject to a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) these will become 8am to 8pm coupled with more parking enforcement to ensure the spaces are available for residents. The change in hours could come into effect in the Spring
Car registration details will be added to permits to counter unauthorised use. This is likely to come into effect in 2023 although no date has been set yet.
Changes limiting the number of permits to two per household will be rolled out as permits come up for renewal, while Blue Badge holders will also become liable to pay for residential permits, and residents of a pensionable age who don’t own a car will no longer get a free permit but will still be able to buy visitor vouchers.
West Suffolk Council will also review how it manages the issuing of trade permits in these zones.
The Council has written to all permit holders ahead of the first changes coming into effect in early 2023.
One option that will require further work is the integration of permit zones where one is heavily oversubscribed and another less so. There will be further consultation with residents over the specific details and this merging of the zones will only go ahead if backed by the majority of residents in both areas.
Another move, to look at the single and double yellow lining and see if any of it can be made available for permit parking, will be subject to further work by Suffolk County Council..