Members of Adur and Worthing Councils joint scrutiny committee rejected the motion put forward by councillor Lee Cowen, which called for alternative charges at car parks to be explored in an effort to encourage more people to use the high street – particularly in Southwick and Lancing.
Speaking at the meeting last week, Mr Cowen said even small parking charges of 20p acted as a deterrent for shoppers, adding: “Shopkeepers have indicated that the most recent hikes in charges have affected their trade and consequently Lancing has several empty shops now.”
However, councillor Emma Evans said: “The usage of Lancing car parks since the increase last year has actually gone up quite significantly.”
She said the only car park where usage had dropped was in Southwick, adding that the council had taken steps with traders to address this.
Councillor Neil Parkin said subsidies which had allowed for two hours of free parking in Adur during the 2000s at a cost of £160,000 a year to the tax payer had been scrapped.
He said: “We didn’t think it was morally right that little old ladies and the poor members of our society that couldn’t afford to own a car, their council tax was being used to subsidise car owners.”
Mr Parkin asked whether Labour councillors thought it was ‘defensible that people who fork out thirty thousand pounds for a car cannot afford to pay 50p to park it’.
Pointing out that the council had made special arrangements in Southwick – such as providing free parking every Saturday in the lead up to Christmas and also helping with rent payments – he said: “We do look at these things but, financially, its not feasible.”
Councillor Angus Dunn noted that the cost of the car parks was currently around £280,000.
Councilor Brian Boggis said: “As a regular user of the Lancing shopping centre I certainly don’t feel that the car parking charges are any sort of discouragement to going there.
“There are things that you do go to the Sainsbury’s and Tescos for, but they are different from what you go to the town centre (for).”
Mr Boggis said he did not agree that free parking was the reason why Rustington was such a ‘vibrant’ place to shop, adding: “It’s well laid out, it looks smart, there’s a wide variety of shops there.
“These are things the council is endeavouring to address in the Lancing area.”
He added that the council had bid for funding which could potentially see a ‘significant amount of money’ invested in Lancing.
After the meeting, Mr Cowen described the decision to reject the motion as ‘short sighted’, arguing that Lancing needed ‘a lifeline’.
“Customers are the income for businesses and successful businesses generate business rates that help fund the council,” he said.
“There are many options the council could promote such as single day free parking and time limited free parking.
“It won’t work in isolation without other investment, but can be a part of a package of measures that help regenerate the village.”
He added: “Retail parks, shopping centres and other villages like Rustington have free parking and it’s no coincidence that those car parks are packed with shoppers.
“We have to give shoppers an attractive alternative and support our existing businesses.”