Babergh parking decision to be deferred
Babergh District Council’s Cabinet is set to defer making a decision tomorrow over the future of parking provision across the district, to allow the fullest possible scrutiny and further debate.
Thursday’s Cabinet meeting was due to include a discussion about how to continue subsidising an element of free parking, in light of the financial challenges faced by the council, and the environmental need to encourage more sustainable transport.
The total cost of running Babergh’s car parks is expected to be more than £440,000 for the next financial year (2021/22). The proposals, based on the findings of an independent parking study, included retaining an element of free parking in both Hadleigh and Sudbury in order to support local business, but would see the current three hours’ free parking reduced, with a small tariff introduced for longer periods. The proposed charges would still mean Babergh having some of the lowest tariffs in comparison to similar size towns in the UK and across Suffolk as a whole.
Income raised from the plans, if approved, were due to go towards reducing the subsidy, sustainable travel schemes, updating and improving cycle parking, electric vehicle charging points, signage and car park upgrades – supporting the towns’ wider visions and contributing to their post-Covid recovery.
However, councillors are now expected to defer any decision to next month’s cabinet meeting on February 4 instead. This will allow the issue to be reviewed by Overview and Scrutiny Committee on January 18 as well as being fully debated at Babergh’s next full council meeting on January 19 – with all meetings publicly livestreamed.
Babergh District Council leader Cllr John Ward said: “We have been fortunate to have been in a position to subsidise three hours’ free parking for as long as we have, but the time has now come for some difficult decisions. We understand the strength of feeling – particularly from local businesses who are battling the impact of the pandemic – and we have pledged throughout to do everything possible to retain some element of free parking. The eventual outcome, however, must meet the needs of taxpayers and residents as well as visitors and business.
“Delaying until February allows the issue to be discussed by Overview and Scrutiny committee, and full debate by all councillors at our next council meeting, to ensure that this is a fully transparent decision when it finally comes back to cabinet.”