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Sudbury's free car parking under review as Babergh unveils 'Vision for Prosperity' plan

By Priya Kingsley-Adam

Free car parking in Sudbury is under review. PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (2801186)
Free car parking in Sudbury is under review. PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (2801186)

Free car parking in Sudbury could be axed if short-stay charges are approved, as part of Babergh District Council's new 'Vision for Prosperity' plan.

The proposals are being considered by Babergh District Council as part of its Vision for Prosperity – a document setting out how Sudbury should develop in the future.

There is already a £2 charge for all-day parking in Station Road, which offers free parking for three hours.

Previous attempts to introduce short-stay charges have been strongly opposed, with Luke Cresswell, a town and district councillor for Sudbury, claiming the latest effort could harm the number of visitors.

“To include the consideration of short-stay car parking charges in a Vision for Prosperity document is contradictory and nonsensical,” he said.

“It risks turning us in to a ghost town. It would be economic suicide, with job losses and vacant shops.

“Free short-stay car parking is a massive advantage to Sudbury, which is surrounded by Colchester, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Braintree. We must not shoot ourselves in the foot.”

John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, said: “At this stage, all aspects of parking will be considered in the strategy and so we don’t want to make any assumptions about its findings and recommendations.

“However, we recognise that changes are necessary so that Sudbury has parking that improves access to the town and its businesses now and also looking forward to the future.

“Any decisions on charges – where, when and how much – will only be made once we have the recommendations in the strategy, which will be based on a full analysis of the potential benefits and impact.”

In 2016, plans to scrap free parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh caused outcry from a campaign group, which said they posed a serious threat to the viability of the town – a point echoed this week by Cllr Cresswell.

“The Tories should be encouraging people to visit Sudbury, not scaring them away,” he said. “For a party that claims to be pro-business, they are woefully out of touch with local businesses in Sudbury.

“This parking strategy is nothing more than an attempt by the Tories to introduce the parking fees that they have wanted for so long. The local Labour Party will oppose such charges.

“Indeed, Labour candidates will stand in May’s local election on a promise to keep short-term car parking free.”

The review of parking charges comes as plans for a new hotel in Sudbury are set to be explored in more detail.

Councillors will discuss the development on the former swimming pool site in Newton Road in July, with details of who will take over the site to be confirmed.

Jan Osborne, Babergh District’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, has expressed her support for the development.

“We have Gainsborough’s House coming forward, which we hope will generate more visitors to the town,” she said. “So we need a hotel to accommodate them.”

Aside from various businesses offering bed and breakfast, the town only has one hotel – The Mill Hotel – and Mrs Osborne said a wider choice could attract more visitors.

“I think there needs to be competition,” she added.

In 2016, there was talk that budget hotel chain Premier Inn was interested in taking on the now redundant Belle Vue House, although this was never confirmed by Babergh District Council.

Belle Vue House, which campaigners fought to save – an attempt to have the 19th century building designated as an asset of community value failed – now due to be sold off for housing.

The house was sold to Sudbury Town Council and later handed over to Babergh District Council.

Other proposals in the pipeline include the redevelopment of Hamilton Road to provide a leisure site, with plans for a cinema, shops and new homes.

“The Hamilton Road quarter, including the Borehamgate precinct, is a real opportunity for us to develop Sudbury’s town centre,” said Mr Ward.

“New shops, cafes and potentially even a cinema could transform this part of the town centre, while retaining the businesses and heritage of Market Hill, and work is already under way on a business case for this major regeneration.

“We’ll be looking at it in detail later this summer, and hope to engage a development partner to make the potential a reality shortly after that.”


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