COUNCIL SLAMS PARKING HIKE
The changes in parking charges in Horsham District Councils (HDC) car parks in Billingshurst have been met with concern by many people. Billingshurst Parish Council raised a number of concerns about these changes, and the effect they could have on local businesses. The Parish Council lobbied HDC to retain the current parking disc system but to make gradual increases annually over a period of time. The Parish Council was keen to point out to HDC that their plans to increase charges contradicted the Supplementary Planning Document for the High Street and Jengers Mead area, which HDC were involved in setting up. The SPD has a central theme of seeking to attract people to the village centre, whereas increasing parking charges could have the opposite effect. The Billingshurst Councillors also raised concerns that card-only ticket machines, online voucher renewal and paying by mobile phone could discriminate against some user groups. There were also concerns that illegal and dangerous parking elsewhere in the village, which seem rarely policed already, would worsen after the changes are introduced.
When HDC first approached the Parish Council in September 2016, they raised the option of the Parish Council leasing the car parks, the Parish Council would then take on future costs and responsibilities of them. The Parish Council was promised figures outlining the likely costs of such an agreement in order to fully consider this option; sadly these figures have never been forthcoming. The Parish Council also felt that while managing their car parks, HDC has maintenance and legal departments etc. and has Parking Wardens to police them; Parish Councils do not have such facilities. The Billingshurst Councillors were also very concerned that if the Parish Council leased the car parks from HDC, it would involve a high increase in the parish precept; the exact degree of this increase would be unknown, given that the running costs for the car parks had not been provided.
In September 2016, the Parish Council was also told that there would be consultation with the local community and other interested groups such as the Billingshurst Chamber of Commerce. Billingshurst Parish Council feels that consultation on this important subject has been lacklustre to say the least. The Parish Council is in the process of getting evidence together for its Neighbourhood Plan. When asking the business community "what improvements in infrastructure would assist your business?" so far the greatest response relates to parking.
It is disappointing that HDC have forged ahead with the increases and changes in parking charges in Billingshurst without proper consultation and seemingly ignoring the concerns raised by Billingshurst Parish Council and local businesses and residents.
Billingshurst Parish Council Chairman