Controversy over parking fees and wardens in Midhurst and Petworth

CLAIMS have been made the introduction of traffic wardens and parking charges in Midhurst and Petworth were made to make money rather than improve traffic flow, after the Observer revealed more than 1,000 parking fines have been imposed in the past year.

The Observer has learned that in the year from April 12, 2010 – when Chichester District Council took over civil parking enforcement on the district’s streets and put its own ‘traffic wardens’ on patrol – 1,048 ‘on-street’ parking tickets were issued in Midhurst alone.

In the same period 265 were issued in Petworth.

But there had been no tickets issued in the rural car parks in the month since the introduction of car park charging on April 1 this year to May 3.

A spokesman for CDC said civil enforcement officers had instead been advising and helping motorists on the changes.

“During this period, warning notices were issued informing motorists of any contraventions they had broken so that they could rectify this.”

John Quilter, a senior member of Midhurst Town Council which opposed car park charging, said he welcomed the leniency shown, but was surprised by the number of parking tickets issued over the year.

“I hope that this period will be extended for a sensible period given the significant level of confusion that exists over the two-hour free period of parking,” he said.

“The message that a ticket is required, even for the free-parking period, just has not got across to users. It is quite obvious the very sensible course taken by CDC’s civil enforcement officers must be extended into May and possibly June.”

He said he would not expect fines to be imposed until the level of warning notices had dropped substantially.

Mr Quilter was ‘surprised’ at the number of ‘on-street’ tickets issued in Midhurst in the past year and ‘at the level of revenue that will have been generated from their issue’.

He had yet to notice any beneficial effect on the flow of traffic or any marked improvement in the reduction of illegal street parking.

“This just serves to reinforce the view held by many in Midhurst that CDC’s main motivation is revenue generation from parking penalties,” he said, “and not the traffic flow improvement cited as one of the main reasons for the parking charges.

“Despite (CDC’s director) Paul Over appearing to brush aside the concerns about parking displacement from the car parks to residential streets, we are already seeing this happen to a significant extent.”

Mr Quilter pointed out no provision for residents’ parking schemes had ever been made in the original plans to overcome this problem.

He was also concerned that despite a commitment from Chichester District Council a year ago, no plans had emerged to provide much-needed extra car parking spaces.