Parking fee fears dominate Dereham public meeting on future of Breckland Council

Concerns about the possible introduction of car parking charges in five mid-Norfolk towns dominated the second public meeting about how Breckland Council will fill a projected �3m budget gap.

Speakers at last night's event in Dereham raised fears charges would hit low-paid workers, damage shops which rely on visitors coming to the town and make parking difficult for local residents.

Council leader William Nunn laid out three options for parking: keeping it free at a cost of �300,000, charging after the first one or two hours to raise �150,000, or introducing an hourly fee to raise �300,000.

Cabinet members said they did not yet know how much a payment and enforcement system would cost or what the parking fees would be, but said long-stay parking for people who work in the town was being examined.

Philip Morter, who runs Bennetts in Norwich Street, said: 'We have customers who come from Easton, Hingham, Attleborough and Wymondham. They come to market days and they come for the day, have lunch in town, do all their shopping and make a day of it because there's free parking, but they won't come if car parking charges are imposed.'

Christopher Taylor, who raised concerns about the social effect of introducing charges, said: 'The costs of people coming into work paying for the next five hours every day is going to make a significant difference to that person if they can no longer afford to come in and work.'

The remaining public meetings, starting at 7pm, will be at Attleborough Town Hall on September 24, Swaffham Assembly Rooms on September 26 and Watton Queens Hall on October 2.