Lewes Town Councillor Stephen Catlin’s petition to get the town free parking on Saturdays and half an hour free parking on School Hill Mondays to Fridays is rapidly reaching his target of 2,000 signatures.
His initiative has been backed by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce.
“We are nearly there,” Cllr Catlin said this week, “and with another week to go until the closing date on October 19 the target is achievable.”
He admitted there have been one or two objections to the scheme, notably at the west end of the town where Westgate Street car park, given extended parking time to help traders, is often full of residents’ cars at weekends.
To answer this he said this week that the parking board must address most seriously the “woeful under-provision” at the west end of the town – perhaps even considering the provision of another level or two of spaces here or addressing it as a shoppers’ car park.
“But then, of course, residents would be aggrieved,” said Cllr Catlin (Independent, Lewes Priory Ward). “It really does show how ill thought out the scheme was.”
He also thinks that the rigidly enforced regime is a reason for the closure of shops in the High Street and on School Hill. Two more shops have closed down on School Hill, and one is due to go from the west end of the High Street.
“And these are the independent retail outlets that vociferous locals claim they want to keep,” he added on Wednesday.
Cllr Catlin warned that the situation is more serious if an in-depth look is taken. “You have only to look at businesses for sale in Lewes on line and you find one popular restaurant, the town’s only serous record shop and an estate-based community store being put on the market. A peep round the door of a town centre estate agency, will also reveal details of another well established community store for sale,” he added.
He continued by saying that the age of the independent shopkeepers has also to be considered, with quite a few of them thinking of their retirement. “A radical rethink is needed if Lewes is to keep its profile,” he said.
Most signatures for his petition are coming from two areas – Richards’ the Butchers, which could be affected by the closure of The Lewes Fruit Stores – although this property is shortly to be marketed by Oakley Commercial – and Clarke’s the Jewellers, one of the oldest concerns in the town, down in the Cliffe.
Cllr Catlin added: “This is no time for complacency – all of Lewes must make its voice heard.”
Responsibilities for parking in the district is split between Lewes District Council and East Sussex County Council, including maintenance and enforcement.
Car parking is available both on-street and in car parks throughout the district. Each is managed by a different authority.
The county council is responsible for on-street parking. This includes the maintenance and management of the street pay meters and enforcement.
The district council operates and manages all off-street car parks available within town centre areas. This includes the maintenance of the sites including marking out of white lines.
Enforcement is administered on the councils’ behalf by NSL Services Ltd, which also operates The Parking Shop, on School Hill.