A lack of parking enforcement and high parking charges are keeping customers away and driving businesses out of Battle, a trader has claimed.
Paula Williams, owner of BRITSH design BRITISH made in the High Street, says vehicles parked illegally in the High Street for long periods are putting off local shoppers unwilling to pay to park in the increasingly more expensive Rother District Council-owned car parks when they just need 20 minutes in town.
She said: “It’s ruining the flow of shoppers to the town. Footfall has diminished considerably since I opened in 2012.
“There are times in the week, particularly in the winter months, when you look out onto the street, it’s like a ghost town.
“Many people have complained about the parking here. They say it’s too expensive and so many of those who used to complain simply haven’t come back.”
Louise Killick owner of Barberlou’s says her clients are always complaining about parking, adding: “It’s a repeated topic of conversation.”
High Street traders have called for RDC to take an ‘holistic approach’ when looking at Battle’s parking issues.
Paula said: “The town needs a proper parking review because the main car park charges are deterring locals from coming here.
“Heathfield is thriving because their car parks are free.
“A longstanding family business, Farrago, closed their Battle shop in January to concentrate on their Heathfield outlet as footfall is so much higher there.
“There are other similar sized towns nearby like Cranbrook where parking is free.’
Paula went on to mention The Portas Review which states: “It is clear to me (Mary Portas) that local councils will have a firm eye on the things that drive revenue, parking clearly being one of them.
“Yet I fundamentally believe that to increase the cost of parking in a locality (when there are alternatives offering free parking elsewhere) is to curtail the appeal of that location to the shopping consumer and therefore the longer term economic viability and wellbeing of the area.”
Paula said: “It’s about time RDC took this on board.
“Mary Portas was strongly in favour of local areas implementing free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres.
“Locals are key to our business.”
Last year, many traders piled into The Almonry for a meeting and expressed their frustration at the lack of parking enforcement in the High Street and high parking charges in general at Rother Councillor Martin Kenward.
On behalf of High Street traders, Paula handed an open letter to Cllr Kenward asking for civil parking enforcement to be introduced to end the current parking abuses in the High Street and for a complete review of the parking throughout Battle.
But Paula said: “Rother District Council never responded to our letter.
“They had full addresses for 27 businesses in the High Street and they have not even acknowledged our concerns.
“I have now sent the letter on to Rupert Clubb, director of communities, economy and transport at East Sussex County Council.
“This cannot be ignored any longer. There have been further substantial business closures in the last three months.”
The letter was also sent to the police to answer the safety issues raised in the letter to the council.
“Sussex Police have also not responded,” Paula added.
Sussex Police is currently responsible for parking enforcement across Rother.
There have not been any traffic wardens in Rother for a number of years, and Sussex Police has repeatedly said it does not have the time and resources to devote to parking enforcement.
In 2014, the Department for Transport wrote to East Sussex County Council, which is responsible for the county’s roads, encouraging local authorities to take control of parking enforcement away from the police.
The council says it would need the support of Rother Council to make the switch to civil parking enforcement.
Rother is currently working with ESCC on a business case, which would include information on how on street parking enforcement would work in practice.
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