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Downham Market Town Council to investigate introducing paid-for parking close to businesses

Councillors have agreed to investigate whether they can viably introduce paid parking restrictions throughout their town.

At Downham Town Council’s full meeting last week, members voted on whether Napier Parking should be allowed to take control of the Priory Road car park - close to the old fire station - and introduce a payment system.

After a heated debate during which all councillors were offered three minutes to put their thoughts across, they ultimately voted against those plans.

The Priory Road car park in Downham. Picture: Google Maps
The Priory Road car park in Downham. Picture: Google Maps

However, having to come to some form of solution, they agreed to allow the town clerk to look into whether or not a scheme could be put in place at all of the council-run car parks in Downham which would allow people to leave vehicles for three hours before having to pay.

The debate was largely split on whether paid parking should be introduced in the town.

Cllr Stephen Moyses voted against the Napier Parking proposals, and warned any councillor who backed them that they would be known to the public.

Cllr Valerie Leivers said businesses in the town centre would be affected if people could no longer park close to them for free, and added: “Without them, it would be a ghost town.”

Others who warned against the proposals included Cllr Tony Leach, who said they would create a “tax on shopping and a tax on working in Downham”.

He added: “We are just about to get an out of town shopping centre which is going to offer free parking to their customers.

“I think we should see what happens to the town before we go and use a sledgehammer to smash a nut.”

Cllr Barry Hobbs suggested that free parking should be available, but only if it is limited to three-hour spells.

He said that Tesco in the town employs this policy and that it “seems to do well”.

“I think I can say with some certainty that nobody shops for more than three hours in Downham,” he said.

Concerns were also raised about people abusing the ability to leave their cars for long hours with no repercussions.

Cllr Charis Brewer said: “I fear we have become a town with a reputation of ‘don’t go into Downham to shop, because you just can’t get parked’.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Anna Incorvaia pointed out that council-run car parks are technically not free, because they are funded by portions of the authority’s council tax precept.

She said this ultimately means that residents are getting the short straw compared to visitors to the town.

She said: “So if you drove in from Stoke Ferry, Denver, Wimbotsham, Southery, Ely or even Scotland, leave a vehicle for whatever period of time - perhaps all day and all night over multiple days - then you do get to use the car parks for free.

“In the eyes of a reasonable person, how is that fair? Not everyone can afford a car either - again, how is that fair?”

Cllr Jacqueline Westrop said the latest research carried out in Downham showed that just one in three parking spaces was typically available for shoppers to use.

A vote to investigate introducing some form of paid-for parking was successful.

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