A leading campaigner who has blasted the decision to introduce Sunday car-parking charges in Chichester has accused the district council of trying to form a ‘cartel’.
Andrew Hooper says the district council wants to team up with the county council – which wants to introduce more residents-only parking zones – to force drivers into its ‘lucrative car parks’.
District council members debated the issue on January 24 after Mr Hooper submitted a 1,488-signature petition, calling on it to reverse an earlier decision to introduce the charges.
But the council stuck to its guns and chose to press ahead with the charges. Mr Hooper said the situation was ‘very sad’ for Chichester.
“Chichester District Council is trying to form a car-parking cartel with West Sussex County Council to ensure there is no free parking in Chichester on Sundays,” he said.
“The planned off-street charges of up to £11.30 on Sundays will encourage drivers to seek any residents’ car parking places that are freely available.
“The district council wants to close this loophole in its car-parking plans and try to persuade the county council to force drivers off the streets and into its lucrative car parks.”
West Sussex County Council is already investigating extending its current Controlled Parking Zone, and would look at implementing them if drivers kept parking on residential roads to avoid car park charges.
To add to drivers’ woes, a hike in parking charges across city car parks is to come into effect from April.
The cost for more than five hours in Basin Road, Northgate, Cattle Market and Avenue de Chartres will rise from £3.50 to £4. An hour’s stay will rise from 60p to 70p.
Mr Hooper said: “It seems stupid to have someone walking around thousands of cars making sure everyone has paid. It really is to maintain council jobs.”
On September 20 last year, the council voted 23-16 in favour of bringing in Sunday charges from April 1 – signs are currently being amended and parking machines reprogrammed.
The council accepted a change proposed by Cllr John Connor, cabinet member for the environment, which will extend the validity of season tickets to cover Sundays, and reduce the charging period from the 8am-6pm proposed to 10am-5pm. Voting was 29-7 in favour.
Council leader Heather Caird said the council knew government grants were not going to increase, and would probably reduce. If they were not going to put things like Sunday parking charges in place, they would have to save money somewhere else.
However Cllr Martyn Bell said: “If we charge on Sundays, the one day of respite our city residents have will go.”
An alternative amendment to make the new charging period midday to 5pm, was defeated 28-8.
Sunday charges will be £1 for up to four hours and £2 for over four hours in the five long-stay car parks, and weekday tariffs for the remaining ones. Net income from the charges has been estimated at £151,000 in 2012-13.