Police in 'Constable Country' Dedham parking glue probe

glue in one of the Dedham machines Image copyright Ian Wickes
Image caption Just days after controversial new charges were introduced in the heart of Constable country, the coin slots were glued shut

A row over controversial parking meters in the heart of "Constable Country" has escalated to a police investigation.

The new parking charges came into effect in Dedham, near Colchester, earlier this month.

But within days of the new regime, the coin slots in the meters were filled with glue, preventing their use.

Businesses say the culprit's actions show the "strength of local feeling". Colchester Borough Council said the sabotage was a "wanton" criminal act.

Daily charges

Dedham, on the border between Essex and Suffolk, was featured in paintings by John Constable and sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Image copyright BBC/Laurence Cawley
Image caption Dedham sits with an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a popular tourist destination in the east of England

Efforts by Colchester Borough Council to introduce parking charges were shelved last summer after objectors voiced concerns about how the proposals would affect tourism and businesses.

But the charges of up to £4 per day for those using the Mill Lane and Mill Pond car parks were introduced on 7 April.

Between 14 April and 19 April, Essex Police said, the machines at both locations were glued shut, making it impossible for them to be used.

The council said the machines had since been repaired.

Image copyright FSB
Image caption The Federation of Small Businesses said traders in Dedham wanted to see the council's parking regime overturned as it was harming business in the village

The council says the charging policy was agreed with Dedham Parish Council and would raise money for community facilities in Dedham.

But Ian Wickes, of the Essex branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Implementing this scheme was wrong. Local residents said it was wrong, and Dedham's business community said it was wrong.

"Whilst the FSB in no way condones this act of vandalism, it illustrates the strength of local feeling about a scheme that no-one wants, and that local businesses are now reporting is impacting [on] trade."

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