Parking charges will stifle community

An open letter to Cllr Carl Maynard, leader of Rother District Council.

THIS letter responds to your reported comments in last week’s Battle Observer (September 23) on the initial paper produced for the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s September 26 2011 meeting.

Those comments were presumably sought following the furore that was let loose at this council’s September 20 full council meeting when the Services OSC paper was discussed.

The regular increases in charges for the car parks in Battle, together with the charging regime itself, have been a source of constant concern which we have articulated over many years.

In what appeared to be an attempt to allay our fears following last year’s increase we were led to believe that these would be taken into account as part of a much wider ranging review of car parking arrangements.

However, the sole purpose of the current review is to find ways of increasing revenue.

I am bound to say, therefore, that we are very disappointed that only one aspect of a much bigger topic has been considered.

So far as the recommendations themselves are concerned our judgement is that they will further stifle community life and the efforts being made by organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce to stimulate economic activity.

We find it surprising that there appears to be no input on the matter from a regeneration or tourism viewpoint.

Your comments in the Battle Observer about the difficult financial climate are fully understood, but cannot be simply used to defend an arbitrary decision to raise car parking charges throughout the district.

Indeed, the fundamental problem with the review is that it simply applies a similar approach to the majority of car parks across the district, when what is required is a sensible assessment of local circumstances and a bespoke response to suit those circumstances.

I have in mind here in particular the relatively few on-street parking places in Battle.

I do not recall ever paying to park in Bexhill while a vacant on-street parking spot in Battle is treated as a treasure by anyone fortunate enough to find one.

Even as I write, the numbers of such slots look likely to be further reduced by the current ESCC proposals on Parking Restrictions.

Battle Council Tax payers find the proposal to remove the minimum stay of one hour iniquitous.

To argue that this will have the benefit of encouraging shoppers to remain in the town longer is stretching the imagination beyond belief.

It will patently reduce the numbers of parking slots available at peak time and will either deter those (and there are many of them) who simply come into town for a single purpose or encourage them to seek – probably unsuccessfully – to find free on street parking.

Not only would this affect local businesses but it could also work counter to your expectations and produce less rather than more income.

Similarly, although perhaps not affecting businesses to the same extent, imposing even a £1 charge after 6pm will cause some people to think twice about attending such things as community events or visiting the town for evening leisure activities. Removing the Christmas free parking simply adds insult to injury.

The council therefore registers its opposition to the recommended arrangements in the strongest of terms and urges your council not only to take a fresh look at the issues in the light of a proper analysis of the local circumstances applying to each individual car park, but also to support any subsequent recommendations with a clear summary of options.

In light of the public anger excited by the proposals in Battle I have offered a copy of this letter as an open letter to the Battle Observer.

CLLR RON HARRIS

Chairman

Battle Town Council