Backlash over evening car parking fee plan

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Readers have hit back at Chichester District Council cabinet after the committee voted to approve a one year trial of evening car parking charges near entertainment venues in the city.

Council car parks by Chichester Festival Theatre and the cinema in New Park Road would be charged at 70p per hour between 6-8pm, raising an estimated £98,500 in council funds.

Councillors agreed that visitors had the option of other car parks and disabled parking would remain free.

But chairman of the New Park Community and Arts Association Michael Foyle said the charges would make the centre less competitive for the small businesses that use its facilities.

“We’ll have to see what happens to our evening users and we strongly suspect it will diminish,” he said.

Centre development manager Allison McDonald-Hughes said more than 30 groups would be ‘adversely affected’.

She said: “Several of these groups provide support services to disadvantaged, vulnerable residents and families, many of whom have limited income.”

A comment from council leader Tony Dignum that the fee was just three per cent on a £45 theatre ticket attracted particular scrutiny from Observer readers.

Facebook users pointed out that tickets start at £10-£15, and those working or volunteering at the theatre in the evenings were unlikely to be highly paid.

Reader Andy Tadd suggested the council make ‘long term savings’ instead and reduce council bureaucracy to ‘make it a slick organisation rather than the overweight lumbering sloth it is’.

But Paula Chatfield said car parks were run to cover the cost of providing them, and wear and tear from evening use was currently paid by those who didn’t park there at that time. She added charges might ‘free up space’ in the busy New Park Road car park.

A spokesperson for Chichester Festival Theatre said it would encourage audiences to respond to the council during the consultation period.