Legal ploy may help Chichester residents block Sunday parking charges

Chichester residents have threatened to use obscure laws to block car parking charges from being introduced in the city on Sundays.

Andrew Hooper and five others have called a rare parish meeting to allow residents the chance to vote on a parish poll on the new parking charges, which Chichester District Council (CDC) has planned to come in effect from April next year.

Uniquely only people living in the ‘parish’ – Chichester – can vote in the poll, which excludes some council representatives – such as the mayor, Cllr Tony French, who lives outside of the city.

Mr Hooper is hoping the poll will also make West Sussex County Council think twice about introducing charges for on-street parking in Chichester in the future.

He said: “The county council still hasn’t decided about Sunday car parking. We can say as a city that we do not want these charges introduced.

“We want to get as many people along to the meeting as possible.

“This is a parish meeting, which is very uncommon.”

Chichester District Council’s cabinet agreed to introduce Sunday parking charges for city-centre car parks in September.

It would cost £1 for four hours and £2 for more than four hours in long-stay car parks and the standard current tariff in short-stay car parks.

The idea to introduce evening charges was, however, dropped.

Mr Hooper added: “Chichester seems to be the ‘cash cow’ for the district council as many of councillors represent constituencies outside the city and the city councillors and city council can be simply outvoted.

“The (Parish Poll) legislation requires no less than ten, or one-third, of the local government electors present at the meeting, whichever is the less, to vote in favour of a Parish Poll – there is no vote against.

“It is this legislation that brought the district council into being and this part of it, ie the right to a Parish Poll, was part of the protection of democracy for local communities.”

A CDC spokesman said: “Once a poll has been called for, a vote must be held within 14 and 25 days.

“The cost of the poll is met by the parish council, which in this case would be Chichester City Council.

“Although Chichester District Council is responsible for organising and running the poll, the cost must be met by the council that called it.

“The result of a parish poll is not binding on the city or the district council.

“The poll can serve as an instruction to the parish council to do, or not to do, something within its power.

“The poll has no power to change decisions made by other organisations.”

The advert informing the public of this decision has now been placed and the charges will come into effect on April 1, 2012.