Arun parking charges not backed after fears they could ‘ruin high streets’ and ‘kill’ rural areas

Friday, 11 March 2022 19:28

By Jessica Hubbard - Local Democracy Reporter

Proposals to increase town centre car parking charges and introduce fees in five previously free-to-park areas have been rejected.

At a meeting on Thursday (March 10), Arun District Council’s environment committee rejected plans to introduce charges at Bersted Brooks, Brookfield in Littlehampton, Grassmere and Links Avenue in Felpham, and Shrubbs Field in Middleton On Sea.

The committee also said no to increased town centre charges which would have seen fees go up for both short stay and annual parking permits.
Arundel Town Council and Littlehampton Town Council had also objected to the proposed town centre increases.

But plans to increase seasonal car parking charges were approved by the committee.

Officers said they had ‘no problem’ filling popular car parks during the summer months and, in fact, the issue is the number of spaces available.
Green councillor Isabel Thurston (Barnham) said: “These are fairly reasonable prices for somebody to add on to a day out to make it convenient for themselves.”

Some car parks run at a loss.  It was hoped that increasing charges would bring in an extra £146,000 and offset maintenance costs which see some car parks run at a loss. But plans to introduce charging at the five free-to-park areas were not supported during a public consultation and only 22 per cent of respondents supported the changes overall.

Felpham parish councillor Glen Hewlett was among those who objected to introducing charges at the Grassmere and Links Avenue car parks. Both are run at a loss by ADC and Mr Hewlett said the parish council would consider rescinding its annual maintenance contribution if charges were introduced.

“How can you proceed with this scheme without a detailed business case and without a proper consultation,” Mr Hewlett asked. “Can you demonstrate the benefits, also taking into consideration the potential loss of our contribution?”

Committee chair David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said all parish and town councils had been informed about the proposals. “The income received for these car parks does not meet the current running costs,” he said. 

“These proposals were identified as a fair and reasonable way of generating additional income to meet these costs while still allowing for free parking for many users.”

Wider plans were also not supported by committee members who said they had ‘not been costed.Charges ‘could kill the area’

Paul English (Con, Felpham East) compared unsuccessful plans to introduce charging in the five areas to ‘grasping at peanuts‘.

Shirley Haywood (Ind, Middleton-on-Sea) said the scheme, including a need to step up patrols, had ‘not been properly costed’.

But officers said it was ‘not possible’ to estimate income for areas where parking is currently free, adding that traffic wardens already visit them. Ms Haywood also had concerns about the effect of parking charges on local clubs. “When they go to the clubs, they don’t just last two hours, they could last four hours,” she said. 

“Now, that will be a real cost to these people and it could kill the Scouts Hall and it could kill off the Felpham Colts.

“The cost of the car park could kill the area.”

This was a view shared by deputy council leader Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea) who said that rural villages ‘depend on footfall from local people’.

Ms Haywood also said that town centre increases could ‘ruin the high street’ and  Matt Stanley (LDem, Marine) added that footfall had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Last rise was in 2016

Town centre parking charges were last increased in 2016 but seasonal charges were increased in 2021.

The council was hoping to increase all charges as part of its Off-Street Parking Strategy 2021-26.

A West Sussex comparison showed that Arun has the second cheapest charges for town centre car parks after Adur District Council. Arun has the lowest charges for multi-storeys when compared to Chichester, Crawley, Horsham and Worthing. But it has the highest hourly rate for coastal and rural car parks when compared to other local authorities in West Sussex.

The increased seasonal parking charges are expected to come into effect from May 1.

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