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Shortfall in car parks revenue

PUBLISHED: 15:33 01 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:01 05 July 2010

New fears about the impact of over-running bridge works and higher parking charges on shopkeepers in Lowestoft were raised last night after figures revealed a huge shortfall in money made by council-run car parks.

New fears about the impact of over-running bridge works and higher parking charges on shopkeepers in Lowestoft were raised last night after figures revealed a huge shortfall in money made by council-run car parks.

Waveney District Council had hoped to make £1.2m from parking fees during the past year, but is expecting to be more than £300,000 below this figure by the end of the financial year.

It is feared the figures are a clear indication of how badly trade has been hit in recent months as shopkeepers battled against roadworks, a delayed project to repair the Bascule Bridge and the lure of out-of-town shopping centres.

Last year, Waveney's car parking income was £210,000 below budget, but council spokesman Phil Harris insisted an increase in fees was not to blame.

He said: “There are a number of factors which have affected car parking income this year. The issues with the Bascule Bridge and some poor weather during the summer season and bank holiday have had a negative impact.”

Mr Harris also pointed to out-of-town shopping centres; free parking offered by supermarkets and concessionary bus fare schemes as factors affecting car park income.

“It is primarily these factors and not car park fee increases that have caused this downturn,” he added.

However, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard hit back at the council, saying its decision to put up car parking charges last year delivered a huge blow to traders and drove many shoppers to neighbouring towns, such as Beccles.

“I'm very upset about it. It's pretty clear the shopkeepers have taken a hit and it's the car parking that's the last straw,” said Mr Blizzard.

“What these figures show is the sheer lunacy of the council's car park policies. In terms of the lost revenue they have only got themselves to blame.”

The council increased all-day parking in the town centre by £1.25 to £4, although it made some reductions, including a cut in one-hour rates to 50p.

Despite the difficulties, Mr Blizzard joined forces with a business leader to urge shoppers to return to Lowestoft now the worst of the disruption was over. “The daytime bridge closures are over so come back to Lowestoft,” he said.

Linda Thornton, chief officer of the Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce, said a number of initiatives were being planned to help boost trade, including a scheme to reward loyal shoppers. We are looking to address the issues that have affected the town for the past few months. We've got a number of exciting ideas. My message is to keep your eyes and ears open - there is a lot going to be happening,” she added.

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