Wensum, December 16, 2014: Parking fines could be bad news for Fakenham

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Ever since the Millers Walk shopping arcade was built, parking on either side of Whitehorse Street has been free and obviously of great convenience to residents and visitors.

But, over recent months, parking restrictions have been imposed and many vehicle owners fined.

Plenty of them have felt aggrieved and have been in touch with the town council to express their disappointment.

I came across one email to the parish church from someone who had visited the Christmas Tree Festival only to return to his car and find a notice on his windscreen. The fine was £100, or £60 if paid within 28 days.

This exceeds the fines imposed on the town’s district council car parks. Anyway, this particular visitor declared he would not be coming to Fakenham again.

I guess it is this type of reaction which is of most concern. We have always prided ourselves on being a welcoming community and the last thing we need is for people to shun our hospitality over something as basic as parking.

The matter was raised at the November town council meeting and a letter despatched to the responsible authority.

They replied with photos of offending vehicles to justify their charges.

The cameras in place will find you out for staying longer than two hours, leaving your car on a white line rather than in the centre of the parking space or using a disabled zone without the proper information displayed.

People have become so used to a comfortably free regime in this territory that it has obviously come as a big shock to be thus controlled.

Councillors are in no position to prevent this kind of action on private land provided notices are clearly displayed and penalties indicated.

I can assure you there are plenty of these. But the over-zealous approach has to be a big concern if we are not to alienate more and more shoppers.

Such was the feeling around the table at this month’s council gathering that a further letter will be sent expressing local discontent.

I have to say that Creative Arts East is one of my favourite things. For many years now they have helped fund regular visits by top artists to village halls and the like right across the region.

For this family it has enabled a reasonably-priced evening out to be enjoyed within a few miles of our doorstep – in particular at Kettlestone, Whissonsett and Hindolveston, plus occasional evenings at our community centre.

The tickets have always been well under a tenner, the reception very welcoming and some of the quality quite exceptional. We often attend even if the programme is not exactly up our street.

In the current round of cuts, of course, the arts are an easy target. This financial year Norfolk County Council reduced its grant to CAE by £90,000 and it was mooted at the December town council meeting that it is considering a cut of £150,000 for next year.

Should this happen – as seems likely – CAE’s budget will go down by 50 per cent. In that circumstance, there is no way it would be able to continue its investment in over 200 rural communities.

I feel really sad about that prospect whilst grateful for all the good performers we’ve been able to enjoy. A sentence from one of the CAE management team continues to resonate. “If we do not voice our opinion now, the county will consider silence as support for the proposed cuts.”

You can raise your voice at https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/consultation/budget
andservices. Please do so.