Motorists have reacted with shock and anger to increased parking charges in Lewes.
Many were taken completely by surprise by hikes of nearly 100 per cent implemented on Monday.
The fee for long-stay car parks - essential for people who commute to work in the town - increased to £3.70 for a stay of more than four hours. Previously, in a typical long-stay facility like Brook Street, drivers were paying £2 for the day.
Commuter Susan Butcher said: “I drive into Lewes from Heathfield every day as there is no public transport between the towns. I used to park in Phoenix West where charges were £3 a day. I was horrified this morning to find a new price scale which put charges up to £3.70. I did not have the right coins (nor did anyone else, the car park was half empty) so I left. Machines do not give change and I resent having to pay £4 for the privilege.
“A colleague said North Street charges have risen from £2 a day to £3.70 for just eight hours - not long enough for a working day. No notice was given, there have been no improvements to facilities and North Street is a disgrace - even at the £2 charge - with no marked bays and a rough, potholed surface.
“No wonder traders are in despair - I see more and more niche shops closing. You can drive to Brighton or Tunbridge Wells and find a better choice of shops and restaurants as well as park under cover. That’s what people are doing now.
“Plus Heathfield and Uckfield have all-day free parking.”
Another motorist commented: “I am absolutely disgusted. The price of parking in Brook Street has almost doubled without any advance warning. People were driving away this morning, and others were gathered around the ticket machines trying to find the correct change. Raising the price of the car park by this much is outrageous. I was paying £2 and now I have to pay £3.70. How can this be justified? The car park was almost empty when usually it is difficult to find a space. It is very disappointing.”
Lewes District Council, the authority responsible for off-street parking, defended its actions. The council said: “We know from what residents and businesses have told us, in addition to the parking review we carried out in 2012, that the current off-street parking arrangements in Lewes Town mean that it is sometimes difficult to find a space to park. There is also a shortage of medium stay (up to four hour) spaces.”
It said the recommendations from the parking review, brought into force this week, “should deliver a number of benefits for Lewes”.
The council said there would be increased turnover of spaces in the town centre to facilitate ease of parking and access to shops and businesses, and the changes would encourage long-stay (commuter) parking away from the town centre to minimise congestion.
It offered flexible parking options, including more spaces where they are needed most, and would harmonise parking charges in line with on-street parking. This would give motorists consistency and a choice of tariffs.
“We will be able to achieve the above by using a combination of different incentives and changes to tariffs that will help flexibility and choice for motorists and better value for money,” the council said.
There would be a removal of charges for off-street car parking on Public Holidays.
The new charges in Lewes are as follows. Short Stay (Up to 2 hours): 30 minutes - £0.50; 1 hour - £0.70; 2 hours - £1.60.
Car parks: Friar’s Walk, Cliffe High Street, West Street, South Street (North).
Medium Stay (up to 4 hours): 1 hour - £0.70; 2 hours - £1.50; 3 hours - £2.30; 4 hours - £3.10. Car parks: East Street, Little East Street, The Maltings, Pinwell Road, Westgate Street
Long Stay: 1 hour - £0.60; 2 hours - £1.30; 3 hours - £2.00; 4 hours - £2.60; Over 4 hours - £3.70. Car parks: Phoenix Causeway, Mountfield Road, Spring Gardens, Brook Street, Market Lane (Saturday).
Up to 4 hours - £2; 4 and 8 hours - £3. Car park: Cockshut Road (Monday to Friday).
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