Private firm to take over parking

A PRIVATE firm is to take over the town’s on-street parking from as early as next year.

Councillors at East Sussex County Council voted on Tuesday at a cabinet meeting to tear up the present agreement with the borough council, which allows the latter to manage Hastings’ car parks.

The news comes as a bitter blow to local councillors and business leaders, who fear vital money needed for improving the town’s infrastructure will be lost.

Councillor Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council (HBC), said: “We are very disappointed as we think the council runs a well-managed service and the county council accepted it as the best run in the county.

“It’s not good news for Hastings, as the High Street traders, the chamber of commerce and town centre management committee all sent in letters of objection.”

In April the county council invited private companies, including HBC, to tender for a new contract to manage Hastings’ on-street parking.

Councillor Birch said HBC chose not to submit a bid because several of the performance targets in the proposed contract were ‘too punitive’.

He said: “One said the percentage of parking tickets cancelled due to an error should be no more than eight per cent.

“In Hastings, now, the level is 9.4 per cent. Another target was that 85 per cent of penalty charges should be paid off each year. But in Hastings we managed 78 per cent. Instead we offered to continue the present partnership agreement and make £180,000 savings.”

He said it could be late next year that a new company takes over.

Councillor Terry Fawthrop, who represents Ore and Baird ward on the county council, said: “The economic situation in Hastings is fragile and based on small shops. Traders are worried that an aggressive parking regime from a new company will stifle trade.

“Currently the traders and parking enforcement officers work in empathy with each other, so there is an understanding.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Lewes councillor Rosalyn St Pierre said Lewes had suffered ‘huge problems’ because of aggressive parking enforcement and many shoppers had therefore chosen to go elsewhere.

Councillor Carl Maynard, the county council’s lead cabinet member for economy, transport and environment, said it was ‘unlikely’ residents would see much of a change in Hastings, with current staff transferring over to the new parking firm.

“There would still be that local empathy,” he said.