When town centre parking charges virtually doubled at the start of this month there was a sense of disbelief.
Paul Bridges who owns a martial arts academy in Earl Street told Hastings In Focus: “…nice way to kill off the town centre and old town in one move! Who’s decision was this?”
The decision was made by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and even on Tuesday, almost a week after the new charges were introduced veteran Labour Councillor Godfrey Daniel was still trying to persuade the council to change its mind – he failed.
While Hastings – the poorest area of East Sussex – has to deal with doubling of parking charges, in Wealden, one of the most affluent parts of the county, there are no parking charges at all!
“Sadly in these difficult times the Conservatives who run ESCC are unwilling to admit their mistakes and it will be the people and businesses of Hastings who are condemned to pay the price,” he told HIF after the meeting.
On Tuesday ESCC held a full council meeting and there Mr Daniel appealed to Councillor Claire Dowling, the Lead Member for Transport and Environment to think again about the swingeing increases to the cost of parking being applied at a time when the owners of town centre businesses are still reeling from the closure of their businesses during the Coronavirus lockdown.
“Everyone I met in this poorest district in East Sussex is up in arms thinking the county council doesn’t care about them or care if their businesses suffer,” Mr Daniel told the meeting.
“You made the decision in January to impose increases… you need to recognise that the world has changed since then and you need to review this decision,” he added.
And Mr Daniel pointed out that in Wealden – Councillor Dowling’s area – there are no parking charges: “In Wealden there are no charges at all in what is the richest part of the county,” Mr Daniel said.
“Please can you review?” he asked, “I wouldn’t want the county council to be seen to be closing down Hastings,” he concluded.
But Ms Dowling was unmoved saying that falling footfall in town centres was not down to parking but to the change in the way people shop and the increasing amount of online shopping being done: “It’s wrong to suggest businesses are suffering because parking charges are increasing,” she said.
She went on to say that many members of the public still had concerns about going in to town centres, people were “wary and scared,” she said. She went on to say that laying the blame for reducing town centre footfall on parking charge increases was wrong.
ESCC, she said would have to weigh up all issues as part of its economic plan that will chart the way forward.
While implementation of the new charges that have effectively doubled the cost of on-street parking in Hastings appeared to come as a surprise to many the plans have been in the pipeline for some time.
Exactly a year ago the county council conducted a public consultation on the issue and the full details of what was to come were released in January and reported here on Hastings In Focus.
We asked Hastings Borough Council if it had made any representations to ESCC opposing the new increased parking charges, we were told: “Kim (council leader Kim Forward) has written to Councillor Keith Glazier, the leader of ESCC, to ask him to reconsider, at this time, the increase in charges.”
What is your view of the new parking charges being levied in the town centre? Tell us in the comment section below.