It is often said by some people that they don't shop in Ipswich but go to Bury St Edmunds because it is too expensive to park in Ipswich. As one who regularly visits towns and cities such as Colchester, Bury, Norwich and Cambridge, I find this rather surprising especially with the price of petrol to get there. I will give some examples to explain why.
We all like to go shopping in other towns occasionally just for a change, a day out and sometimes the chance to buy something we cannot get in our own towns. There is not much you cannot get in Ipswich - which has many shops not found in other towns in the area. For example, Bury St Edmunds does not have BHS, Maplins, Lakeland, Mothercare, Primark, Tiger, Blue Inc, Java Store and many more I can list: all popular shops. Not counting the independent businesses, Ipswich also has most of the shops found in Bury. Ipswich has its own independent shops along Tacket Street, St Nicholas and St Peters Streets, Dial Lane and other places dotted round the town. You may have to go up a back street for some of them. As with all other towns both have their fair share of charity, pound and mobile phone shops which is the way of the world today. Bury has its own attractions and is a lovely old town. We are lucky in being surrounded by great towns and cities in East Anglia which all have their own characters and are all lovely in their own way.
The cheapest place to park by far in the region is Felixstowe where Great Eastern Square is free and if you want the sea-front, dozens of roads lead off it with free parking on either side with no time limits. However, Felixstowe would not really be considered a shopping town.
There are four main providers of car parks in Ipswich: Ipswich Borough Council, Britannia Parking, NCP Car Parks and RCP Parking, amongst others. The majority of the IBC car parks are £1 per hour and eight of these are £1 for the rest of the day after 3pm. There are thirteen IBC car parks dotted all round the town.
NCP Car Parks, as in most towns, are the most expensive. The costliest in Ipswich is the NCP in Crown Street at £3 per hour. All the time I have lived in Ipswich, I have never needed to use it. Just across the road is IBC Crown Car Park at £1 per hour.
Britannia Parking run the Spiral and Wolsey Theatre car parks at £1.50 for the first hour, getting cheaper per hour after that: quite a lot more than IBC car parks but still less than other towns. RCP Parking have a car park on the docks at 60 pence an hour and another at the top of Handford Road at 80 pence an hour. Both a bit further out but walkable.
To park in the Bury St Edmunds ARC Shopping Centre car park costs £2 up to one hour scaling to £4 up to 4 hours, when it is the same as IBC car parks. In Bury town centre and on Angel Hill (if you can get on to it), it is £1.50 for 30 minutes or £2.20 for 1 hour - maximum stay 2 hours. Both twice the price (and more) of the IBC charges. Ram Meadow and Parkway multi-storey on the edge of the town centre are both £1.50 for 2 hours minimum charge and not free to disabled drivers. At 75 pence an hour these are good prices, but still more than RCP car parks in Ipswich where you would walk a similar distance to the town.
In Norwich, Castle Mall is £1.20 per hour and £2.30 for 2 hours. Chapelfield is £1.70 per hour and £3.40 for 2 hours. The Forum is £1.70 an hour. Again the prices are better than some places but still more expensive than IBC Car Parks.
In Colchester, Nunn's Road multi-storey behind the former Williams and Griffin is £2.50 for 1 hour and £4.50 for 2 hours. St Mary's multi-storey on Balkern Hill is £1.80 for 1 hour and £2.70 for 2 hours. Osborne Street near Colchester's "make do" bus station is £2.00 per hour for the first two hours, scaling down per hour after that. All are more expensive than Ipswich.
In Cambridge the Grafton Centre car park is £2.10 for 1 hour and £3.60 for 2 hours. Park Street is £2.10 for 1 hour and £3.60 for 2 hours. More than double IBC car parks in Ipswich.
As a visitor, these are the most probable car parks for me to use. I only use NCP if I cannot find anything else. When in a strange town, without local knowledge, I may use one. Comparing Ipswich parking prices with these other towns and cities it is relatively cheap to park in Ipswich. Certainly not more expensive unless you choose to use the NCP car park on Crown Street, or their one in Foundation Street at £2.20 for 1 hour (30 pence cheaper than the Colchester NCP) and £4.20 for 2 hours, which no one needs to do.
In Ipswich, if you live near the town, walking is easy and we have good, award-winning bus services. Ipswich also has a good Park and Ride (at the time of writing!). Many people drive into town who do not need to. NCP are there if you want to pay the price, but I have never, ever used an NCP car park in Ipswich in the forty-five years I have regularly parked there.
None of this is to criticise other towns or parking companies, but to question those who say Ipswich parking is expensive. From my own experience I can usually park in Ipswich easily and more cheaply than most other towns in the area. There are expensive options in Ipswich but there are always cheaper alternatives and for those who know the town - they have a choice.
(N.B.: Prices are correct at the time of writing.)