A community leader has said the potential introduction of charges at a car park often used by doctors surgery patients is "concerning" and "unhelpful". 

Parking in Sudbury, Hadleigh and Lavenham is currently free for three hours, but Babergh District Council announced it could no longer subsidise free parking as it faces a £6.7million budget gap.

It proposes an introduction of a £1 charge for short stay parking for the first hour or £1 for two hours in long stay parking, as well as a reduction in the cost of all day parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh from £3 to £2.50.

One car park that would be impacted by the change is the Toppesfield Hall car park in Market Place, Hadleigh, which Kathryn Grandon, who represents Hadleigh South on the district council, said is often used by visitors to Hadleigh Health Centre when the small private car park becomes too full. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Toppesfield Hall car park in Market Place, Hadleigh, where charges could be introducedToppesfield Hall car park in Market Place, Hadleigh, where charges could be introduced (Image: Google maps)

"They haven't got enough space as it is for surgery patients," she said.

"Sometimes you can spend ages driving around waiting for a space but they don't come free, so a lot of them have to use the car park on the other side of the surgery, Market Place car park, which is owned by Babergh.

"The surgery is very concerned because what will patients do if they can't find a parking space in the surgery car park?  Will they have to pay?

"It seems very unhelpful to ask people to pay to go to the doctors when they are ill." 

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Kathryn GrandonCllr Kathryn Grandon (Image: Babergh District Council)

A report on the parking was discussed by Babergh's overview and scrutiny committee last week.

Ms Grandon, who sits on the committee, raised the fact that the report included a section about the possibility of rebates for Lavenham surgery but was told it was included in error and rebates for visitors to both Lavenham and Hadleigh surgeries had not been included in the finance plan.

The committee drafted 11 recommendations for the cabinet, the fifth of them being the review of whether a rebate system could be introduced in Hadleigh, Sudbury and Lavenham in car parks that serve doctors surgeries and medical centres. 

"I hope the cabinet will see sense on the issue," Ms Grandon said. 

A Babergh spokesperson said: "We are doing further work on the feasibility of various options for patients and visitors to media centres and mobile health screening units. 

"As we have said throughout this process, the council can no longer afford to subsidise free parking without risking cuts to other essential services, but we have been keen to find the best solution by seeking feedback from the town and parish councils affected, local organisations, and our own councillors. 

"We have also ensured our draft proposals received thorough scrutiny from the cross-party Overview and Scrutiny Committee, ahead of recommendations going before cabinet for decision next month."