East Sussex County Council is to consult on proposals to increase its on-street parking fees, with the prices of residents’ permits and pay and display tickets both set to rise.
On Monday (June 17), East Sussex County Council’s deputy leader Nick Bennett signed off on a public consultation to seek views on standardising the county council’s on-street parking charges throughout Eastbourne, Hastings and the Lewes district.
According to the council, the proposals would come alongside the first significant increases to pay and display parking charges for around 11 years, with fees costing from between 20p to £1.90 more per hour depending on the area.
The proposals would also see low emission vehicles pay a lower rate for a parking permit.
In approving the consultation, Cllr Bennett said: “CPE (Civil Parking Enforcement) has to pay for itself and if you want some form of regulation curbing traffic movement then you have got to have parking enforcement.
“You could say we will just take the middle value of all of these permits and parking charges, but I actually think the introduction of the emissions element is a good thing.
“Whether the pricing is absolutely right is something the consultation will discover.”
As a result of the low emission pricing scheme, the council says most permit holders in Hastings would see their charges fall or stay the same, rather than increase.
Most permit holders in Eastbourne, however, are expected to see their charges increase under the same system, as the borough’s current permit scheme is set at a lower cost.
At the moment a standard 12 month resident’s permit for Hastings town centre is set at £75, while a standard 12 month permit in Eastbourne is set at £25.
Under the new proposals the standardised cost of both permits would range from £95 to £15, depending on the vehicle’s emissions.
Charges for permits in Lewes, where a discount is already given to low emission vehicles, would remain the same, while the cost of resident permits in Falmer would increase.
Council officers stressed that the fee increases are intended to have an affect on people’s driving habits – incentivising people to use public transport and to park in off-street car parks if visiting a town for long periods.
Opposition councillors, however, criticised the proposals due to the level of increase proposed.
Pat Rodohan, the Liberal Democrat group’s shadow cabinet member for transport, said: “I think we need some honesty about why the charges are coming in. We know it is to replace funding that is not available at the moment through various channels.
“It has been dressed up as an array of environmental issues, which I agree with, but that is not the main reason why it is here at this time.
“For residents it is a matter of cost. Permit charges [in Eastbourne] are being all but quadrupled, £25 to £95.
“But the people that it will affect the most – which are lower income people who have a terraced house and nowhere to park their car off-road – will not be able to afford that increase.”
Cllr Rodohan said the fee increases proposed (to both pay and display and permit parking) were ‘too much, too quickly’ and called on the council to bring them in more gradually, if the increases were to go ahead.
Similar concerns were raised by Labour group co-leader Godfrey Daniel, who raised concerns about the impact of increased charges on town centre businesses and residents who rely on permit parking.
Cllr Daniel: “These are very dramatic changes, you are doubling on-street parking overnight in effect. There will be a huge negative impact on businesses.
“Business in Hastings are at the moment in the midst of austerity – as they are in Eastbourne and other places – and are struggling in town centres.
“The fact they haven’t been raised before is the fault of the county council, not the people’s fault they are going to suddenly come in.”
Cllr Daniel also argued the emissions-based charges would have a disproportionate impact on Hastings residents who, he said, were less likely to own newer low emission cars than other East Sussex residents.
He said: “Hastings is the poorest of the three urban settlements and we’re going to be paying basically the same standardised rate as Lewes, where property values are huge compared to Hastings. Eastbourne’s [property values] are probably double Hastings as well.
“The problem is you have to look at a fairly poor community, where you are effectively taxing the poorest the most.”
As a result of Cllr Bennett’s decision, a six-week consultation on the proposals are expected to run from July 1 to August 11.
According to the council, the increased charges would be used to cover the cost of parking enforcement in the county.
Any additional surplus after operational costs, the council says, could go towards the county council’s public transport costs and be invested in sustainable transport projects to reduce congestion and improve air quality