Charges are set to be introduced to ‘free’ council car parks this month – despite concerns over the impact on local residents.
The fees will apply at seven sites in the town and coincide with on-street charges being brought in by East Sussex County Council at the end of September.
The car parks affected are Manor Gardens, Egerton Park, the top and bottom of Galley Hill, the War Memorial, outside the Town Hall, and the Polegrove – Richmond Road.
The plan, which was approved by Rother District Council’s cabinet on Monday evening (September 7th) will be reviewed after six months.
Joe Powell, the council’s head of service – housing and community, told councillors that the introduction of on-street charges would increase the use of the council’s car parks.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously compounded what is already a challenging environment for the council’s finances and any increase in costs needs to be met by an increase in charges,” he said.
Mr Powell also said that annual permits would be available in the car parks, with the cost being standardised across the district at £321.50.
These will be awarded in priority order to disabled residents, local residents, and nearby businesses, and then to other people.
Councillor Field welcomed the introduction of permits and emphasised the need to revisit the new charging regime once everything had settled down over the next six months.
“We can’t underestimate the enormous change which residents, particularly in Bexhill, are going to find with the introduction of civil parking enforcement, on street car parking charges, and car park charges that we are going to propose,” she said.
However, councillors raised a number of concerns at the meeting.
Councillor Chris Madeley, who represents Bexhill Old Town, requested that Manor Gardens be removed from the plans until a public consultation could be carried out.
“This car park is a vital community resource for old town residents, diverse small business, a doctors’ surgery, dental practice, Manor Barn function rooms, St Peter’s church, and the community centre,” she said.
However, Cllr Field, responded: “This is an issue we have district wide wherever there is car parking charging and people take some time to get used to a new regime. It’s why I’ve suggested we give it six months to bed in, then go to scrutiny and look at the real effect.”
Councillor Paul Courtel, who represents Bexhill Central, argued the permit charges were too high for residents, some of whom rent rooms in flats with shared facilities.
“I’m appalled anything above £150 could apply in their case,” he said.
But councillor Kevin Dixon, who represents South Battle & Telham, took exception to Cllr Courtel’s comments.
“He’s not the only councillor with families on low incomes in their wards,” he said. “It’s the same in Battle and Rye, but those people have to pay parking charges. When you move into those properties that’s what you have to expect if you don’t have your own parking.”
Cllr Dixon also suggested residents living near Manor Barn may welcome charges at the car park because it was always full.
“By clearing out the commuting cars and offering parking permits, residents will probably find it easier to find a parking space on a regular basis,” he said.
Click here for our previous story on this subject and the sliding scale of parking charges that are being proposed.