As a response to concerns from local businesses about the impact of Covid-19, East Suffolk Council has agreed to extend its free parking scheme to 13 additional car parks across the district.
Having introduced new tariffs in August 2020, which were designed to simplify charges and better reflect the needs and historic usage of parking facilities, it has become clear that issues created by the virus have affected parking behaviour and the Council has responded by now offering its 30 minute free parking tariff to 48 different car parks, up from the original 35.
Some car parks which previously did not offer this particular tariff were in towns where it was agreed that a large number of 'on street' parking bays were sufficient and the car parks themselves could prioritise shoppers and visitors making longer visits.
However, social distancing measures in towns have removed a number of these bays and because of this reduction in availability, the Council has decided to offer it more widely as part of its 'off street' car park provision.
The Council also believes that the overall impacts of Covid-19 on high streets and businesses mean that extra steps should be taken to encourage more people to return and 'shop local'.
A decision to amend the tariffs was taken on 3 November and they will be introduced shortly.
Cllr Norman Brooks, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: "Before this year, our car park charges varied enormously with no fewer than 56 different tariffs. These were inconsistent and difficult to justify, so we introduced a far simpler scheme which not only made it easier for people to understand but also genuinely reflected the established requirements of businesses and visitors alike.
"However, it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse effect on our towns and we are determined to ensure that we respond quickly and appropriately to the impacts that the pandemic has created. Social distancing measures have also reduced the number of 'off street' bays and so it makes sense to increase availability in our car parks for people who are making quick 'pop in' visits.
“East Suffolk Council has stepped up and provided a support for a wide range of people, communities and businesses since the pandemic hit and we will continue to respond and intervene where it is needed most. This decision is a great example of that and our commitment to boosting trade at what has been a genuinely difficult time for our fantastic local businesses.”
East Suffolk car parks providing half hour free parking with additions in bold::
St Peters Street
Nicholas Everitt Park
Harbour Quay East
The Percy Mason
Hamblin Road 1