District council defends plan to sell Fakenham car park for housing

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Maintaining a Fakenham car park as it is, rather than selling it off for housing is unsustainable, district officials have insisted.

North Norfolk Council chiefs have defended their plans to sell the Highfield Road site, which they say are necessary to help meet its budget deficit.

But a packed town council meeting on Tuesday night was told that residents felt the authority was “selling the family silver.”

Steve Blatch, the district authority’s corporate director, told the meeting that a deficit of £2.2 million needed to be reduced and steps had already been taken to do that.

He said the free car park had been identified as an underperforming asset, which was actually costing the council money, in its own surveys.

He said: “There are more than 1,000 parking places within range of the town centre. Only 34 per cent of these are provided by the district council.

“Our earnings from these are the lowest of all the seven major towns in the district.”

Judy Oliver, portfolio Holder for legal, electoral and democratic services, corporate assets and commercialisation, also suggested that to leave Highfield Road as it is would not be a sustainable proposition for the district council.

She suggested converting it to a pay and display car park may be an option and some of the proceeds from a potential sale could be used to create start-up office space in Fakenham.

But, last month, the town council declared its opposition to any sell-off and rejected claims it was underused.

Its own survey, conducted over a period of weeks in the summer, had shown it to be well used on both work days and at weekends.

It also argued that neighbouring roads were inconvenient for parking, while adjacent dwellings had no parking spaces of their own. The toilets on site were also valued.

Sean Mears said: “There’s a large development planned to the north of the town so I can’t see the need for this.”

Richard Crook added: “It’s really not popular with townsfolk. To them it’s as if we’re selling the family silver.

“I also think that now is not the right time to be thinking along these lines. The college site just opposite will also be on the market soon and what happens there could make a big difference.”

The meeting was told the issue is due to be discussed at the next meeting of the district council’s ruling cabinet on October 30.