A referendum on whether parking spaces should be removed from Uckfield High Street will be held on Thursday evening, March 12.
The cut-back in on-street parking, where 35 of 43 bays would go, was planned so pavements could be widened, pinch-points eliminated and congestion eased. But it angered local traders who suffered when the bottom of the High Street was closed for nine weeks at the start of the regeneration programme.
They say their survival depends on customers being able to park outside shops and voiced concerns people would find other places to shop and not return to Uckfield.
A vote in favour of a referendum was taken at a meeting in the Civic Centre on Saturday, chaired by town mayor Cllr Ian Smith. Cllr Smith said the referendum will cost about £8,000 and the outcome would not guarantee changes to the scheme.
County and Wealden councillor Roy Galley said: “Over the last weeks I have been taking soundings in villages around Uckfield and conclude most on-street parking should stay - by most I mean 20-30 spaces.
“I also think this meeting was premature - the outcome is not binding and could prove a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. Ultimately agreement could have been reached simply by people talking to each other.”
Josh Gibbens, who led the referendum proposal and spoke at the meeting, said: “Our concerns are not being listened to; the council just give us platitudes. It wants to remove the parking regardless.”
Commercial agent Chris Lawson described ‘chaotic’ early works and said: “I know how badly independent retailers were affected. Some saw trade drop by more than half. Some retailers whose leases will expire during 2015 say they don’t want to negotiate until parking is resolved. Several say they’ll leave the town if on-street parking goes. I believe the High Street could cope with losing four or five spaces to ease pinch points but not 40-plus. Our elected representatives, regardless of political label, are not listening.”
One campaigner said: “People want to pop and shop, particularly older people and mums with toddlers. We should support our entrepreneurs who have survived the recession. The more accessible the High Street, the better for business. Uckfield’s population is 15,000 but 13,000 people live in local parishes and shop in Uckfield - those villagers should also have their say.”