An idea to implement two hours of free parking in Newhaven in a bid to attract more people in to the town to shop has been dismissed by councillors.
Cllr Steve Saunders put forward the idea to scrap fees in council owned Newhaven car parks at a meeting of Lewes District Council (LDC) on Wednesday (February 25) at County Hall in Lewes.
Cllr Saunders said the council decided not to support the idea.
He was calling for free parking for the first two hours for one year from April 1.
He said Newhaven town centre had been suffering from both a lack of footfall and investment for many years.
He said part of the problem was that residents and visitors are put off by coming into the town centre because of the cost of parking, combined with a decrease in the number of shops.
Cllr Saunders said: “Having spoken to businesses, the police and residents of Newhaven for some time, it is clear that the easiest way to get the regeneration of the High Street kick-started and improve the safety of pedestrians is to introduce free off-street car parking.
“I have put forward a motion to the Lewes District Council meeting asking them to back a scheme to introduce two hours’ free parking in all their pay and display car parks in the town.
“I have received letters of support from the police, the chamber of commerce and a petition signed by the businesses in the High Street.”
Speaking after the meeting he said he was disappointed with the decision.
He said: “Their belligerence and dismissal of ideas put forward after much debate among the groups with first-hand knowledge of the problems the town centre faces, reaffirms the view held by the majority of Newhaven residents, that the Conservative administration at LDC will do what they want and not what the people want.
“Businesses will continue to struggle and pedestrians will still have to run the gauntlet of illegal traffic and parking, just so the Tories don’t have to concede to another good idea put forward by someone other than a Conservative supporter.
“God forbid they would take account of common sense and the many voices of reason in Newhaven.
“I would like to thank the police, chamber of commerce and the businesses of the town for their support, but can only feel as disappointed as they must be, that the Conservative administration did not listen to us.”
Cllr Rob Blackman, leader of the council, said: “Cllr Saunders isn’t alone in thinking that there is a link between the success of a place and free parking but there is no proven relationship. What is far more important is regeneration activity that leads to major retailers, so called anchor sites, wanting to relocate to an area.
“We have secured £51.7m of inward investment for Newhaven and in time we will see the impact of that on the town centre. We’ve only been in power for four years. The Libs talk a good fight but had over 18 years in power and what significant changes did that bring about for the town centre?
“Did they make parking free? Of course they didn’t. It would cost the council £54,000 to introduce it in Newhaven alone and that money would have to come from somewhere which would have an impact on council tax or see services reduced elsewhere.”