Suffolk County Council's Labour group has hit out at a move to cancel a parking closure trial in Sudbury town centre, branding it "sudden and unjustified". 

The pilot scheme to close half of Market Hill to drivers and remove parking through the summer months, allowing extra space for outdoor dining at restaurants, was given final approval by Sudbury Town Council on February 13.

However, Suffolk County Council, the body with the power to approve the required traffic order, confirmed the proposal had been withdrawn after "opposition from a number of local businesses, Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders".

East Anglian Daily Times: Market Hill in SudburyMarket Hill in Sudbury (Image: Newsquest)

Speaking on behalf of the council's Labour group, Sandy Martin, who represents Rushmere and is the Labour spokesman for transport and environment, branded the withdrawal "sudden and unjustified". 

He said Sudbury could be "a magnet" for residents and visitors if it were more visitor-friendly and added that the town council, local councillors, residents and even county council officers had been working together to produce a "sensible plan". 

"The sudden ditching of these plans, apparently at the insistence of the county’s cabinet member for strategic transport, is both arbitrary and insulting to all those whose hard work that has gone into drawing them up," he said.

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Sandy MartinCllr Sandy Martin (Image: SCC)

"We are committed to cleaner air, safer streets, more vibrant and enjoyable neighbourhoods and more environmentally-sustainable transport. The actions of the current county cabinet member fly in the face of all those commitments. 

"The people of Sudbury should have a proper say in their own town. They must - and will - be heard." 

Phillip Faircloth-Mutton, who represents Sudbury East and Waldingfield on the county council, said he believes it is "absolutely right" that the plan was withdrawn as the free parking on Market Hill will be protected.

"It would be wrong for me, as I have done, to point a finger at Babergh District Council for removing its three hours of free parking and to then endorse the county council, whether it be on a permanent or temporary basis, removing a significant proportion of spaces from the Market Hill," he said.

"In the lead up to my election in 2021, I surveyed a large number of my residents and asked them what their local priorities were.

"The main issues that people wanted to talk about were indeed potholes, and also commitment to free parking. I feel obligated to stand up for my local residents when it comes to this."

East Anglian Daily Times: Phillip Faircloth-MuttonPhillip Faircloth-Mutton (Image: SCC)

He said many residents in surrounding villages and the town itself who are elderly and more vulnerable rely on the free parking on Market Hill to pick up their essentials as well as prescriptions from Boots. 

He added: "It is important that Suffolk County Council genuinely stands up for the most vulnerable in the communities and the Market Hill parking allows easy access to the things they need on a day-to-day basis.

"I think vibrant neighbourhoods are very much about easy access and encouragement. By encouraging people to come to the town centre rather than being pushed out to out-of-town centre areas of shopping and commerce, that is the perfect way to look after your high street."

Richard Smith, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for economic development, skills, transport strategy and waste, who made the decision to withdraw the plan, said: “Many residents rely on their cars to access local shops and services.

"Replacing these parking spaces with seating would benefit only a few of the businesses at Market Hill, while others fear they would suffer from decreased footfall and trade by making access to vehicles more difficult.

"A survey by Sudbury Chamber of Commerce also found significant local opposition and this response should not be disparaged or overlooked.

“Because of these concerns, I was not willing to authorise the closure of these parking spaces."