‘Modest’ parking charge proposals agreed, with further measures to limit impact

Council says huge financial pressures mean it cannot continue to subsidise free parking in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham.

Babergh District Council cabinet has agreed to end subsidising free parking in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham by six votes to two – after it was warned the authority is “on the edge of an economic precipice”.

Parking is currently free for three hours in Sudbury and Hadleigh, and all day in Lavenham, but with Babergh facing a £6.7million budget gap over the next four years, it can no longer afford to continue subsidising free parking without cutting other essential services.

Following agreement at today’s meeting, the change would see the introduction by the end of the year of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour, or £1 for two hours in long stay – keeping charges below neighbouring authorities’ rates.

Tariff bands Short stay Long stay
Up to 1 hour £1.00 n/a
Up to 2 hours £1.50 £1.00
Up to 3 hours £2.00 £1.50
Up to 4 hours £2.50 £2
All day n/a £2.50










A number of additional measures were also agreed to limit the impact of the introduction of charges.

The full-day charge for parking in Hadleigh and Sudbury will reduce from the current £3-a-day to £2.50 – supporting town centre workers, and encouraging visitors from further afield to spend the day exploring the high streets and local attractions.

Refund arrangements are proposed for users of the council’s leisure centres at Sudbury and Hadleigh so no one is deterred from staying fit and active, and also for customers to Roys in Sudbury.  

In addition, officers are looking at refunds for users of nearby medical centres and mobile screening facilities, and possible means-tested permit schemes being explored for parents using council car parks for the school drop off and pick up.

Cllr John Ward, acting council leader, told the meeting: 

“Babergh, like many other councils, has a well-publicised budget shortfall over the next few years, with the huge cost of our car parks being a considerable part of this. We cannot continue to carry this cost if want to deliver essential and valued services for our residents and communities.
“We really only have three options - outsource the car parks to a commercial operator, which we have already ruled out, get the towns to take over the car parks which they do not want to do, or introduce the modest revisions to the tariffs.”

Cllr Deborah Saw, deputy council leader, said:

“I’m on record as saying I’m not enamoured of charging for car parking, but I am also on record as saying I am not prepared to see leisure centres limit their hours or even close, or see our funding cut for community groups that give advice to people in debt, cold, or having problems with their landlords.
“I wish we didn’t have to do this, but we are on the edge of an economic precipice at the moment. This is not the only thing we are going to have to do. We were elected to make hard decisions.”

Restrictions and designations between short and long stay parking will be simplified, with short stay increasing from a three to four-hour maximum stay to offer greater choice and convenience to visitors, and to allow for improved EV charging.  

More car parks will change to cheaper long stay, with the option of season tickets in more car parks – together with reassurance that there are no plans for council car parks to become cashless as part of these plans.

Lavenham Parish Council argued that the proposals could go further to help tackle their village’s parking challenges, with charges also introduced for Sundays and Bank Holidays, as well as charging Blue Badge holders, to offset the cost of implementing more residents’ and business permit schemes.

Babergh cabinet commended Lavenham Parish Council for its constructive approach to working with officers to try to find the best solution for their village and agreed further discussions would take place – but refused to consider charging Blue Badge holders for parking.

The new charges are expected to bring in around £750K per year. In line with the council’s parking strategy for 2022-2042, this additional funding could then go towards further car park improvements, enhanced on-street parking enforcement and sustainable travel.

Sustainable transport options already under consideration include improved cycling and e-bike facilities, higher capacity EV charging points, cycling and walking paths, and possible investment in local passenger and community transport, including digital ‘on demand’ services and incentivising zero emission shuttle buses. 

Cllr Jessie Carter put forward an amendment to retain a one-hour free period, but this was defeated by 6 votes to 2. The report said it would cost the council up to £262K in lost income per year, making it impossible to deliver the aims of the parking strategy, and further complicating parking enforcement in car parks and surrounding residential streets.

Alongside the implementation of the new tariffs, officers have also been tasked with investigating how more powers may be devolved to town and parishes – including through the use of community interest companies (CICs) – and report back to cabinet over coming months.

Under the council’s constitution, the decision by cabinet is now subject to a five-day call-in period.

A picture of a car park payment machine in Sudbury