Opposition grows over charges to park in Norwich parks

Families enjoying the weather in Waterloo Park, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The Friends of Waterloo Park are urging people to object to the parking charge proposal. - Credit: Archant

Opposition is growing to a move which would mean drivers would need to pay to park at Norwich parks - with people living nearby fearing it will mean cars are left on their streets.

Norwich City Council, grappling with a budget shortfall of nearly £2m, is mulling over whether to introduce charges at popular Eaton Park and Waterloo Park.

Drivers can currently park there for free, but City Hall says that introducing such charges could raise £50,000 a year - and help plug the funding gap.

However, the suggestion has sparked opposition from people who fear it will lead to drivers parking their cars in nearby residential streets instead of paying the pay and display fees.

The Friends of Waterloo Park have put up posters in the park urging people to contact the city council to express their opposition to the suggestion.

Poster in Waterloo Park

One of the posters in Waterloo Park. - Credit: Clarissa Place

The posters state: "The city council is planning to charge for parking in these 50 spaces, so many people will park in the roads nearby.

"This will cause dangerous congestion outside our schools and homes."

Jeff Jordan, one of the Friends of Waterloo Park, said: "The thing about Waterloo Park is that the parking there is pretty good - there's 50 spaces there.

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"So, if a significant proportion of people who would usually park there decide to park in nearby streets if charges are introduced, that's a lot of cars.

"The splash area there is the most popular area of the city on a summer day and families throng there.

"That already leads to cars being parked on nearby streets when the park car park is full and it's the same when there's performances and outdoor cinema.

"That's particularly bad for people in Waterloo Park Avenue, with parking on the grass verges and parking charges will mean that happens more.

"Everybody we have spoken to says it's a bad idea. I have spoken to the school, to residents and to people walking their dogs in the park.

"There is currently some £36,000 of investment to refurbish the cafe, but if there's not free parking, I think that would be a deterrent to somebody taking the cafe on."

The café Park Britannia at Waterloo Park has been saved a day before it was due to shut. Picture: DE

The café Park Britannia at Waterloo Park has been saved a day before it was due to shut. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Mr Jordan said: "Clearly, there's a case for charging for parking and the city council are strapped for cash, but I'm not sure this is worth the harm it would do."

There was mixed reaction to the idea of Waterloo Park parking charges from people living nearby.

Amy Jane posted on Facebook to say: "I live on Wild Road and it's already a nightmare getting in and out of the road when the park is busy in the summer months, this would make it all year round on those roads that are not permit parking."

And Casey Cade said: "More parking on residential streets near the park them blocking up people's houses."

But Matt White said he supported the charge, as the council should discourage car use.

He said : "My road is likely to suffer from some increased parking, hence I've been asking Norwich City Council to make my road a Controlled Parking Zone) but this policy is still a move in the right direction"

James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall and a city councillor for Eaton, said the introduction of charges at Eaton Park could reduce situations where jams build up in the car parks.

But he said it could lead to drivers seeking out spaces on nearby residential roads instead.

James Wright, Norwich City councillor for Eaton. Picture: Liberal Democrats

James Wright, Norwich City councillor for Eaton. Picture: Liberal Democrats - Credit: Lib Dems

He said: "I've not had a lot of people contacting me about it yet. but there are various schools of thought on it.

"One is that, if you're a resident, then you may find people who would have paid will instead park outside your front door."

But he said it might, once the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has passed, encourage people to make more use of their own parks or use the bus to get to Eaton Park.

He said: "Clearly, Eaton Park is the jewel in the crown, but there are other options which people might use.

"There's a shortfall in funding which the government is giving to councils, so councils are having to look at ways to bring in money."

But readers have highlighted how what the council gains from parking charges could be lost in loss of revenue elsewhere.

Peter Peggs said: "They forget that if you play Pitch and Putt an adult will pay £6.80 or if you are a Go 4less member £3.40 per round. Adding a parking fee makes it not sensible to play."

The city council says protecting Norwich through Covid-19 has meant spending more.

Yet it has been hit by a drop off in income from sources such as city centre parking and commercial rents.

Eaton Park, which is nearing its 90th birthday. Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018

Eaton Park, which is nearing its 90th birthday. Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2018 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

As well as bringing in charges in car parks, other ways the council is considering in order to raise money includes increasing the £52 annual fee for green waste collections to £55 and putting up fees at cemeteries.

The council is proposing to increase its share of the council tax by 1.99pc.

That would add £5.36 a year to the bill which goes to City Hall and generate an annual £200,000 for the authority.

People can comment on the budget consultation - including the possibility of charging for parking in the parks - via www.norwich.gov.uk/consultations

The deadline is midnight on Wednesday, January 27.

A city council spokeswoman said: "Our budget consultation was launched December 21 and is in its final few hours as it draws to a close on midnight tomorrow.

"Balancing a budget, in the context of year-on-year reductions in government funding is never an easy thing to achieve and this has never been more challenging as now, during this pandemic, where councils are facing losses in income and increased costs as part of our local Covid-19 response.

"This is also why it’s so important that budget-setting is done after it’s gone through a rigorous and robust process of councillor scrutiny and consideration, as well as public consultation.

"We’re really heartened to see that people have very deep and passionate views on priorities for the city and that they’re willing to share these in the context of us having to make some tough proposals.

"We’d encourage all to make these views known, along with their proposals for ways they think the funding gap should be bridged, by completing the survey."