Residents’ commuter parking nightmare

Residents staged their own protest against commuter parking in an ongoing battle to free their streets of a traffic nightmare.

balcombe residents with their parked vehicles
balcombe residents with their parked vehicles

Southern has just increased the capacity of its car park at Balcombe Station, building new bays and adding safety barriers.

But commuters, many driving some distances to avoid more expensive fees in Haywards Heath and Three Bridges, are leaving their vehicles all day in residential roads, annoying householders and causing traffic problems.

Bob Bardwell, of Newlands, Balcombe, said: “When people park all down the length of this road then other vehicles can’t get by.

Churned up verges in Newlands, Balcombe.

“People have to reverse uphill and others just go up on to the verges and damage the kerbstones and drain covers. If a fire engine had to come down here it wouldn’t be able to get through.

“We have left polite notices on commuters’ cars telling them where else they can park without causing any problems but they just won’t walk the extra distance.”

Neighbour Rick Evans said problems for the village and nose-to-tail parking in Newlands had been getting steadily worse since 2006 when Southern began charging for its car park.

He said: “What we want to do is get the message across that they are causing a dangerous situation by parking here where the road is too narrow for other cars to get by.

“People are now so fed up with it that they are prepared to do something.”

The situation in Balcombe mirrors one in Hassocks where village roads are also clogged by rail users.

On Sunday evening, not for the first time, Balcombe residents moved their cars from their own allocated parking bays to the roadside, spacing them to prevent commuters parking on Monday morning. Their own bays were marked as such by Affinity Sutton recently, in an effort to stop some car owners taking the spaces and leaving their cars while they fly from Gatwick.

Now, a working group which canvassed every household in Newlands has found that nine out of 10 households are concerned about the situation and three-quarters approved introduction of a yellow line and ‘grasscrete’.

Balcombe Parish Council, while supporting Newlands residents, rejected the £10,000 cost of applying for a yellow line traffic order, instead requesting the funding from Southern. It also targeted commuter cars with fliers.

A spokesman for Southern said the additional car park spaces at Balcombe were part of work to increase parking capacity across the network to improve rail passenger access as numbers increased. This was a commitment that was part of its Department for Transport franchise.

He added: “Before the car park at Balcombe was increased, capacity was running at around 70 per cent. Spaces at the car park were increased to meet the expected growth in demand. Spaces at the station car parks immediately north and south of Balcombe on the Brighton Main Line are also being increased for the same reason.

“Balcombe is among a few other stations where there are problems with cars parked in residential areas near to stations. What we aim to do in these circumstances is to provide sufficient parking for rail users and liaise with the relevant local authorities so that residents’ concerns can be considered in their planning.

“However, we are not in a position to make changes to the council highways or indeed to fund any amendments outside our leased area.”