A probe into the use of free council car parks in Aylsham and Reepham is on the cards.
Members of Broadland District Council’s Economic Success Panel want to find out whether workers parking all day in the two market towns’ car parks are deterring shoppers who can’t find empty slots.
The panel is recommending to Broadland’s cabinet that there should be a “comprehensive review in consultation with town and parish councils” throughout the district to provide information for a car-parking management plan.
If space blocking was shown to be a problem, parking charges could be introduced, as they already are in neighbouring North Norfolk, and South Norfolk, Broadland’s sister local authority area.
The recommendation followed an hour-long discussion on Monday night (August 19) when the panel considered a detailed report, prepared by David Disney, operational economic development manager with South Norfolk Council.
It made particular reference to Aylsham’s Buttsland and Burgh Road, and Reepham’s Station Road car parks and concluded, among other findings, that introducing charges – with the first hour’s parking free – would solve space-blocking, increase footfall and place the costs of running and maintaining car parks on users, rather than on all taxpayers.
Mr Disney said footfall was the lifeblood of market towns and the national evidence was that if a driver couldn’t find a space in one car park they would try two others. If unsuccessful, they would leave and never return to that town.
Increased footfall had followed “quite distinctly” in South Norfolk towns, including Wymondham and Diss, after the introduction of a free hour’s parking and then charges.
But panel member councillor Peter Bulman said: “What I don’t see is any evidence of market research in Reepham and Aylsham – we’re only being given national information, or about South Norfolk Council. I would want to be persuaded with some hard evidence that this is not a solution looking for a problem.”
Councillor David Harrison, who represents Aylsham, warned that the town’s Buttsland car park was leased by Broadland from its owner, the National Trust, which would “want its share” if the council began charging for its use.
He asked whether Broadland would consider handing over the running of its Aylsham car parks to Aylsham Town Council.
“It’s all about localism – this is what we’re supposed to be doing. Why not leave it to be decided as a local issue by the town?” he said.
Councillor Stuart Beadle, who represents Reepham, said Broadland had a number of car parks throughout its area (there are 12) but only Aylsham and Reepham had been singled out in the report for the possible imposition of charges.
He said: “Reepham and Aylsham would be subsidising off-street parking throughout the district and that’s not fair.”
In a statement before the panel meeting, Aylsham Business and Enterprise Forum (ABEF) said it was concerned that whatever decision was eventually made should not adversely impact its members, either in terms of income or providing community events.
The statement went on: “Parking in Aylsham seems to be a growing problem. The main car parks, in Burgh Road, the Market Place and the Buttsland, are increasingly found to be full for much of the day, while on-road parking in some areas is creating problems for residents. If parking fees are to be introduced, ABEF hopes that these factors will be taken into consideration.
“We hope that local traders, voluntary organisations and residents will have the opportunity to make their views known before any proposal is adopted.”
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