The pay-to-park scheme on the town centre streets of Eastbourne caused controversy when it was introduced in 2008, with many locals and politicians objecting to the charges.
This week, the Herald reveals the scheme has made a profit of £1,946,299 from its introduction up to March last year - money East Sussex County Council promises will be put back in to transport and road improvements around the town.
State of the art pay-to-park meters have become a familiar sight on Eastbourne’s streets since the county council and contractors NSL took over parking enforcement from Sussex Police in 2008.
The unpopular scheme was put through by the Conservatives at East Sussex County Council and vehemently opposed by Eastbourne’s Lib Dems.
Businesses, hoteliers, residents and commuters were also keen to see the meters removed in a bid to boost the town’s economy in what have been difficult economic times.
Figures obtained by the Herald from East Sussex County Council state the total income from the pay-to-park scheme from October 2008 to March 2012 is £6,714,963. This money has been mainly generated through on-street parking meter charges, penalty fines and permits.
However, it has cost the council £4,768,664 in operations costs and enforcement to run the scheme during the same period - meaning a total of £1,946,299 has been made, and is described as ‘operational surplus’ by an East Sussex County Council spokesperson.
Lib Dem Cllr David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, was one of those who campaigned against the pay-to-park scheme back before it was introduced in 2008.
This week, he reacted to the figures released by the council.
He said, “Since that time the scheme has been taking around £2m per year out of the local economy with little to show for it.
“At last they are talking about investing in a new traffic management scheme for the town centre, but this would have needed to be funded in any event .
“I hope that the new council will see the wisdom of scrapping “Pay to Park” and introduce an enforcement scheme which is funded by penalty charges imposed against those who park illegally.
“Such a scheme operates successfully in the Prime Minister’s constituency and could easily be adopted here putting money back into the pockets of local people and giving a boost to the local economy.”
In July 2012 the council announced it would invest £2 million worth of pay-to-park profits in the town centre road restructuring for the £70 million regeneration of Eastbourne’s Arndale Centre. The money from the county council is to be released over a four year period.
The £2 million improvement works will cover Terminus Road from Bankers’ Corner to Grove Road. The works will deliver an improved pedestrian environment.
In February the Herald reported concerns from locals about the potholes in the town. The Herald received numerous letters on the issue with many suggesting East Sussex County Council should do more to repair the roads.
At the time the council said it had spent £19.5m on road resurfacing across the county, but should the parking money be spent on additional pothole repairs for the town?
An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said, “Controlled parking was introduced in Eastbourne in October 2008 following extensive consultation with the public, and was further reviewed in 2010.
“The feedback we received from the 2010 review indicated people felt the scheme had resulted in illegal and inconsiderate parking being reduced and that residents found it easier to park near their homes.
“Effective control of parking is part of the council’s wider strategy of improving transport choice, reducing congestion and enhancing the environment.
“Money raised from the scheme is used for travel and transport measures such as real-time information boards at bus stops, road safety improvements and the £2 million we pledged last year towards highway improvements associated with the redevelopment of the Arndale Centre.”