Missing pay machine means drivers can park for free in city car park

Wires in car park

Where the pay machines should be, there are just wires protruding from the ground. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

Drivers can park in a council-owned Norwich city centre car park for free - because the coronavirus pandemic means no pay machines have been installed.

While the Barn Road car park has boards listing how much drivers should be paying Norwich City Council, where the pay machines should be there are just wires in the floor.

Pay and display board

The board lists charges for the car park, but there are no machines to pay at. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

It means that, since the car park reopened in December, once the Benedicts Gate student accommodation was built above the previous surface car park,  motorists have been entitled to leave their vehicles there without payment.

Student accommodation in Norwich

The Norwich City Council-run Barn Road car park is beneath the Benedicts Gate student accommodation. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

A spokesperson for Labour-controlled Norwich City Council said: “A new pay machine was due to be installed around December last year following extensive building work, which meant the car park was shut for about 18 months or so while the work was ongoing.

“Unfortunately, mainly due to the effects of Covid, it wasn’t possible to install a new and improved machine which could accept card payments, as well as cash, when the car park reopened fully towards the end of last year.

"During 2020 some of our car parks were so underused because of the pandemic and the ‘work from home’ directive that we closed them.

"As a consequence, in December, we took the decision not to close the Barn Road car park just because there was no machine on site which allowed people to continue to park there – and with the hope that those coming into the city would, by extension, be supporting the local economy at a time when so many businesses were desperately struggling.”

The council says it missed out on about £7,000 in lost charges and intends to install a pay machine as soon as possible.

Vehicles in car park

Drivers can currently park for free in the Barn Road car park in Norwich. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

That comes at a time when the council is proposing introducing charges to park at Eaton Park and Waterloo Park to plug a £50,000 funding gap - an irony not lost on Liberal Democrat group leader James Wright.

James Wright

James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Norwich City Council. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

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He said: "Given the car park always looks quite busy, I find it quite interesting the council says it has only lost £7,000 in income.

"But that's still £7,000 - and at a time when the council should be doing all it can to maximise income from people who ought to be paying, rather than considering charging people who do not want to have to pay to visit parks."