MIDHURST and Petworth are reeling from the bombshell news that new proposals for car park charges are on the table.
And there is fury in Fernhurst where Chichester District Council is planning to introduce them for the first time.
I don’t hold out an awful lot of hope about changing their minds, they see us as a bit of a cash cow
Among other controversial recommendations from CDC’s parking forum members, are plans to introduce charging at Petworth’s Sylvia Beaufoy car park.
At Midhurst CDC is proposing to remove the two hours of free parking in the North Street and Post Office car parks, reducing this to one hour. Charges would then be 40p for two hours rising to £2 for eight hours.
There was a bitter battle in 2009 against the introduction of car parking charges at Petworth and Midhurst.
The fight saw heated public meetings in Midhust and Petworth and both towns raised thousands of signatures in petitions against charging.
But the pill was sweetened with a decision to delay implementation until April 2011. And the free parking bands were frozen for two years after implementation.
New Independent district councillor Steve Morley had the task of relaying the latest news to fellow Midhurst town councillors.
Cllr Morley is fighting a lone battle against the proposals as the only district councillor on CDC’s parking forum representing an area North of the Downs.
He has suggested there should be another representative for the area on the forum.
“Market town or ghost town? Some of the members of this forum don’t appear to care,” he said.
“They see Midhurst and Petworth as cash cows in the Rother Valley and car parking as a minor part of a giant profit and loss account.
“We see the two free hours as a lifeline for our traders and businesses which thus ensures our economic viability as a market town. Take that away and you move towards a ghost town.”
He added: “I know we talk about the north and south divide, but there really was a lack of understanding on the part of quite a few members of the forum as to what it is we do up here and how important that free car parking is for Midhurst, Petworth and Fernhurst.”
He said he feared he was fighting a losing battle in opposing the forum’s car parking recommendations.
“I don’t hold out an awful lot of hope about changing their minds, they see us as a bit of a cash cow.
“I have pointed out Chichester has the swimming pool, theatre, museum and art gallery and we put our money in their car parks, but we don’t have those facilities and we are trying to keep these towns alive.”
Council chairman John Etherington said the town was having to fight for coach parking to help its economy “and now they want to take away the little bit of free parking which also helps.”
John Quilter said the economic development arm of CDC was trying to help encourage shoppers in Midhurst: “while another arm is taking away that good work and investment because all they see is money.”
Carol Lintott proposed town councillors write to CDC saying they wanted two hours free parking maintained in the Midhurst car parks and all the car parks to have the same terms “otherwise confusion reigns”.
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