Fakenham town councillors blast North Norfolk car park sale

Fakenham Church Christmas Tree Festival
Fakenham Church Christmas Tree Festival

At a passionate meeting on Monday, Fakenham Town Council unanimously rejected plans to sell Highfield Road car park for housing.

The councillors claimed that the consultation document produced by North Norfolk District Council was biased and inaccurate.

North Norfolk District Council is proposing the sale of the car park for residential accommodation for the over-55s and is asking for views on the proposals and what should be done with the money raised from any sale.

“Nowhere does it ask whether the car park should be kept in its current form,” said mayor George Acheson,

“Closing the car park would have a knock-on effect throughout the town.

“ We’ve already seen the economic impact of coaches and lorries not being able to park there, and this will be made much worse if the car park closes altogether.”

Town councillors agreed that, despite NNDC’s claims that it is underused,

The town council own research and statistics clearly indicate that the car park is well used, at all times of day, by local residents, visitors and those working nearby.

Councillors suggested that the document’s photograph of the car park, with its westerly shadows, was taken very early in the morning.

The document paid no attention to the existing parking issues on the surrounding narrow streets, where old houses have no parking provision.

Councillors also drew attention to the leading nature of NNDC’s survey in asking how residents would like to spend the proceeds of the sale.

By its clever use of highlighted boxes, it implies that Fakenham Town Council is a party to this survey – councillors were adamant that it was not.

Tony Edwards added that North Norfolk, as the local planning authority, should take account of the changes it is promoting for Fakenham.

He said: “The plan for over 1,000 homes in the north of the town will increase the need for car parking, which is already inadequate, especially on market days.”

Councillors did not agree with the claim that there would be sufficient parking elsewhere if Highfield Road car park was no longer available and disagreed that the town council had handed back the car park management in 2014 because of high maintenance costs.

In fact, at the time, NNDC had withdrawn its CCTV system and the £4000-plus it required the town council to spend on business rates for the car park was thought to be better put towards an updated CCTV system.

It was also pointed out that the existing loss of Highfield as a coach park has already affected the town’s traders by reducing tourist coaches, particularly so during the Thursford Christmas Show and the Christmas Tree Festival.

While North Norfolk states that coach companies have not complained to them, councillors have spoken to companies which no longer stop in Fakenham because of parking issues.

Dropping off passengers in town, where the pavements are narrow and where it is not actually legal for them to park, could be dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

Dr Acheson concluded: “North Norfolk District Council must now step back and consider the consequences of freezing its portion of council tax for eight years running.

“It must act for the good of Fakenham’s residents and for the visitors essential to the town’s financial wellbeing.

“If it is to serve the people of Fakenham, it must plan strategically and not politically for its own short-term objectives.”

Judy Oliver, North Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for asset commercialisation has previously said that the loss of governmetn grant in future years was driving the sale.

She said: “Our focus is on how the money raised could be used to attract future investment into Fakenham and boost its economy.

“For example, the funds could be invested in Fakenham public toilets, or provide support for start-up businesses in the town or be invested in the area overall.”