Parking charge proposals include reductions for shop workers and long stay visitors

Details of proposed short term parking charges in Babergh have been published.

Details of proposed short term parking charges for Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham have been published this week, ahead of scrutiny by Babergh councillors later this month.

The report, which proposes an introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour, or £1 for two hours in long stay, also includes a planned reduction in the cost of parking all day in Sudbury and Hadleigh.  The full day charge in the two market towns would reduce from the current £3-a-day charge to £2.50 – supporting town centre workers, and encouraging visitors from further afield to spend the day exploring the high streets and local attractions.

Parking in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham is currently free for three hours, but with Babergh District Council 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.

The proposals have prompted fierce opposition, with concerns raised over the possible impact of charges on high streets acknowledged by the council and a thorough engagement exercise undertaken with the district’s town and parishes.

Although most feedback was against the introduction of parking charges, the move was not universally opposed, with some acknowledging that charges will be required in order to tackle existing parking issues and to protect council services.  Some also argued that car park users should pay, rather than taxpayers having to cover the cost instead.

The proposals, produced following the consultation, include the following simplified tariff bands – benchmarked to ensure they are less than neighbouring authorities.

Tariff Bands Tariff Option A Short Stay Tariff Option A 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 £2.00
All Day n/a £2.50

Unlike neighbouring authorities, there are no plans to introduce charges for parking on Sundays or Bank Holidays in Sudbury, Hadleigh or Lavenham, and Blue Badge holders will continue to be allowed to park for free for up to three hours in any bay of all council car parks.

Restrictions and designations between short and long stay parking are also set to be simplified.  Short stay would increase from three to four hours maximum stay to offer greater choice and convenience to visitors and allow for improved EV charging, and more car parks will change to long stay. 

There will be the option of season tickets in more car parks – and reassurance that there are no plans for council car parks to become cashless as part of these plans.  Payment will still be able to be made either through a mobile app, or by cash or card at ticket machines.

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.

The charges, if agreed, would minimise the subsidy required to operate the car parks, and improve the council’s overall budget by around £0.75m 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.  

The proposals will now go before members of Babergh’s overview and scrutiny committee for feedback on March 18, ahead of recommendations going to Babergh cabinet members to decide next month. If accepted, the new charges are likely to come in by the end of summer.

Babergh District Council leader, Cllr David Busby said: “We have said all along that we would rather not have to introduce short-term parking charges, and that if we have to do so, we will ensure that they are modest, fair, and that we take on board suggestions and feedback from the communities affected.  

“There is no escaping the fact that we face a significant financial challenge ahead.  We have a total budget gap of £6.7m in the next four years, with only £2.4m of reserves available.  Although the recommendations in this proposal help in part, they do not solve the whole problem.  There will be further difficult decisions ahead.”

The report, which also includes other options considered – such as the creation of a community interest company – and reasons for rejection, can be read in full on the Babergh District Council website and the meeting on Monday 18 March will be livestreamed.

Babergh car park