WEEKEND DEBATE: Should Horsham town centre parking be ‘Free after Three’?

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A review of Horsham town centre’s ‘excessive’ car parking charges has been called by a councillor concerned about the loss of trade.

Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park) wants to scrap evening charges and introduce a parking scheme such as ‘free after three’ to ‘bring the buzz back into town’.

She aired her concerns to members of Horsham District Council (HDC) during a meeting on Wednesday June 26.

Councillors were discussing the West Street enhancement project - which has seen its budget increase by £100,000 - when she called for the review of parking to be tied in with the street’s re-opening.

“The conservative councillors, who are mainly from the south of the district, do not appreciate the problems that are caused by the parking charge,” said Frances Haigh after the meeting.

“On the doorstep the main complaint is about excessive charges and over-zealous enforcement officers.”

She explained this has made side streets such as Elm Grove and Merryfield Drive littered with cars because motorists want to avoid using the car parks.

The councillor continued: “Many people say that they save up their errands so they make as few trips in to town as possible.

“Alternatively they park in Sainsbury’s car park which is free, or they go to Tesco’s at Broadbridge Heath, losing trade for the town altogether.

“If we want to really bring the buzz back to the town, especially on week days, we need to look at reducing the charges and introducing schemes such as ‘free after three’ to encourage people back in after the school run.

“We should also abandon the evening charges which are damaging our night-time economy.

“This is really killing off the goose.

“The small amounts raised deter people from coming into the town and really cannot be justified for the harm that they have done.”

Her comments were echoed during the meeting by Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) who warned: “We get the parking wrong and people don’t want to come to town, so we have to be very careful in getting the parking right.”

Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) said the council had debated on car parking fees ‘over and over again’ and argued that they are still far cheaper than other nearby shopping destinations.

Cabinet member for the local economy, Roger Paterson (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) said he would welcome any evidence to show that parking charges had decreased footfall.