Eastbourne on-street parking charges to almost double despite warnings this will damage town’s economy
On-street parking charges are to increase for the first time in more than a decade, in what East Sussex County Council says is an effort to encourage ‘more sustainable travel choices’, by Huw Oxburgh, local democracy reporter.
On Monday (January 20), the council’s lead member for transport and environment Claire Dowling approved proposals to increase pay and display parking charges by between 20p and £1.90 in Eastbourne, Hastings and Lewes.
Cllr Dowling also approved proposals to standardise the price of residents’ parking permits across the three areas for the first time, with the cost to be tied to the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.
In coming to her decision, Cllr Dowling said the proposals were intended to encourage other forms of travel in town centres, reducing congestion and emissions as a result.
But with on-street parking charges set to double in some areas, the decision drew criticism from several councillors present at the meeting.
Among those to criticise the decision was Eastbourne councillor Pat Rodohan (Lib Dem).
He said: “What has upset me about these proposals is that they are wrapped up as being purely environmental reasons when in fact it is a lucrative income generation measure for the county council.
“The charges themselves are too high and too fast and yes the increases will damage the Eastbourne economy.
“The economy is fragile. It will mean less shoppers, less visitors for our hotels and guest houses and it is easy to say an increase of £1 or £2 per day is very little money [but] it is a 100 per cent increase.
“Eastbourne has invested hugely in the economy to attract visitors, our competitors are the overseas market and this will definitely have an effect.”
This view was disputed by officers and Cllr Dowling, however, who said the decision was not intended to increase revenue.
Cllr Dowling also argued the environmental reasons were strong and that East Sussex County Council had made major investments into sustainable travel in Eastbourne.
She said: “This is about trying to change people’s behaviour, trying to make people think ‘do I need to drive into town’? ‘ Can I use the bus, can I use the train, can I walk, can I cycle?’
“Putting up prices will not be popular but we have to do something. Yes, there will be surpluses but we are not doing it for that reason. We are doing it because we have been asked to look at this.”
The decision to raise pay and display charges also came in for criticism from Lewes mayor and town councillor John Lamb, who argued the increased charges were actually likely lead to a greater congestion and deter some people from visiting the town at all.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Lamb said: “What is so disappointing is that there are no plans to improve access to Lewes for those who do not want to use cars. No mention of improved bus services, cycles lanes across the town or a park and ride scheme.
“The 1,700 signatories on a petition against the charges, equivalent to ten per cent of the population, was [also] completely overlooked.”
The standardisation of residents’ parking permits across the three areas will see the cost increase for many residents, particularly those living in Eastbourne.
Currently an Eastbourne resident would only pay £25 for an annual permit (providing it is the first for that address), while a Hastings resident would pay £75. Both are charged at a flat rate no matter the vehicle.
But under the new system, the cost of a first permit would be between £15 and £95 per year in all three areas, with lower emission vehicles to be charged less. This scheme is already in place in Lewes.
This element of the scheme saw concerns raised by Braybrooke and Castle councillor Godfrey Daniel (Lab), who argued it would penalise poorer households.
He said: “In reality the people who have eco-friendly cars and electric cars, who are mostly the more well-off in our society, will pay less and the poor people who can’t afford those kind of vehicles pay more.
“It is particularly exacerbated in the area I represent, which is not only the poorest in the county but probably one of the poorest in the country.”
No civil parking scheme in Wealden
Cllr Daniel also criticised Cllr Dowling for increasing parking charges when her own ward does not have such a civil parking scheme in place.
He said: “I agree with much of what you have said about the environment, none of those points about trying to reduce pollution seems to matter to Wealden, where you represent.
“We have a situation where we are really worried about the environment in other areas, but we are not worried about Wealden.
“Wealden is the richest district in East Sussex and it is free parking, free for residents everywhere. You have towns like Hailsham and Crowborough where presumably – if you argue it is just about the environment – it would be helpful to have such a scheme.
“I suppose what galls me is that people in Hastings and Eastbourne and Lewes are subsidising buses in the richest part of the county, when they make no contribution. That is not fair. That is not equity.
“I know it is a Wealden District function, but I find it a bit rich to be told by Wealden councillors that it is really good for Hastings and Eastbourne, but we don’t make that argument for Crowborough, for Hailsham and other smaller settlements.
“Sorry to put that on you a bit, but I think that is the reality. Should the poorest people in the county in Hastings be contributing to subsidising rural buses that aren’t in Hastings?”
Cllr Daniel’s comments met with a prickly response from Cllr Dowling however, who said she took it as a ‘personal affront’.
She said: “Cllr Godfrey always uses every opportunity to bring up Wealden, he does it with a smile but in this particular case I take it as a personal affront, I take it personally.
“The same as with Eastbourne and Hastings and Rother and Lewes, when the opportunity to look into pay and display came up, Wealden District Council as a whole voted for the time being not to undertake Civil Parking Enforcement. That is not for discussion today. That is not in the paper today.
“What I will also remind others is that first became a councillor in 2003 because of the environmental flooding in 2000. I have worked throughout my political career for environmental – for my town, my district and now my county.
“That is exactly what I am doing now.”