THERE was fury across the Midhurst and Petworth area when town councillors learned of proposals from Chichester District Council to introduce car parking charges.
The discovery, three-and-a-half years ago sparked hard-fought campaigns in both towns to save what many regarded as a vital asset people north of the Downs deserved.
They were enraged by the insinuation that rural areas “got away” with free car parking which was paid for by charges in Chichester car parks.
Chichester after all had facilities such as the leisure centre complete with swimming pool and art galleries.
People north of the Downs felt they contributed to these public facilities. Why shouldn’t Chichester help to subsidise one of the few facilities available to people in Midhurst and Petworth?
There was also a feeling that the timing could not have been worse with yet another burden on the declining rural economy which was the commercial story at the time.
In the event they lost their battle, but did manage to win some concessions.
In Midhurst there was the ‘up to two hours free parking’ sweetener. In Petworth one free hour was agreed for the main Pound Street car park and Sylvia Beaufoy remained free.
It was perhaps prophetic when asked for his views after the decision had been made, town councillor Colin Hughes said he believed the rural areas would be facing another view which could see the removal of the free parking
One year and eight months after the introduction of charges the towns are facing another battle.
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