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Brighton and Hove traders exploring legal action over council parking policy
Traders are considering taking a council to court to test the legality of its parking charges policy.
Last week a high court ruling declared a Barnet Council acted unlawfully in hiking resident's permit charges.
Now business leaders in Brighton and Hove believe the judgement means the legality of the city council's parking charges policy is open to question.
Mrs Justice Lang declared at London's High Court that the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act “is not a fiscal measure and does not authorise the authority to use its powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes”.
Brighton and Hove City Council received more than £18 million a year in parking revenue in 2011/12. Of the £9.5 million profit it made from all parking in 2011/12, this was reinvested into transport improvements.Since then, business and trader permits have been increased from £175 to £300 and £350 to £600 respectively.
Business leaders claim the true aim of the city council's parking charges is not clear. They say the Barnet ruling leaves the door open to a legal challenge from businesses in Brighton and Hove.
Trevor Freeman, chair of the Brighton and Hove branch of the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the ruling in the High Court.
He said: “We have long felt that Brighton and Hove City Council in raising parking charges to the current levels seem to display a motivation that is more to do with raising income for the city rather than providing an amenity for residents and tourists.
“While we accept that the city has parking problems, the attempt to deter visitors and residents from accessing city businesses by some of the highest pricing in the UK does not fit well with their stated aim of encouraging people to use local businesses by shopping in Brighton and Hove.
"We would feel more comfortable with the policy if they had a strategy of meeting the needs of the residential motorists and businesses.
"We await with interest the result of the appeal and look forward to the city council taking on board the judge's comments."
Elliott Raggio boss at plumbing group On Tap Property Services said: “This is extremely interesting and as founder of Traders Need Transport it is my duty to look into this case further.
"I will be keeping a close eye on any developments and look back on Brighton and Hove City Council's reasoning for the outrageous price hike in April 2012.
"If we have a case based on the recent high court judgement in Barnet then I will do my very best to test the legal status of our local council's Parking Charges.
Soozie Campbell, chair of the Tourism Alliance, said: “The council's reasons for raising parking charges have never been fully transparent. It claimed at the time that it wanted to discourage visitors and residents from bringing cars into the city centre. But for this to be effective we really needed to have alternative initiatives such as park and ride.
“I think the Barnet ruling at the least raises questions about the legality of the parking charge hikes which could be tested in court. Members of the Tourism Alliance, whose livelihoods are crucially dependent on parking charges, will be watching developments very carefully.”
A council spokesperson said: “Parking permit charges aim to cover the cost of running the parking schemes and to ensure on and off street parking is made available.
"Parking permits are issued in Brighton & Hove to manage traffic in areas of the city where congestion is an issue.
"There are strict restrictions on the use of any surplus income received which has to be spent on transport and environmental improvements.”
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