PROPOSALS to charge drivers for parking at eight parks across Brighton and Hove were turned down by councillors at a meeting yesterday evening.

The decision – by members of Brighton and Hove City Council – is unlikely to prevent parking charges coming into force in Stanmer Park next February.

Drivers already have to pay to park in East Brighton Park and Preston Park.

The council had proposed bringing in the extra charges to try to raise about £50,000 for the parks budget.

The Argus:

But Conservative and Labour councillors voted together to overturn the proposal at a “virtual” meeting of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.

They said that the charges were likely to hit people from poorer areas, including Moulsecoomb, Hollingdean and Portslade.

And the council conceded that it could not charge drivers at one of the parks – the Saltdean Oval – because the car park is leased to the Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company.

Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that sympathised with the council’s parks and gardens team and suggested that they tried finding sponsorship and advertising instead.

Apart from the Saltdean Oval, the other parks in the proposal were:

  • Easthill Park
  • Happy Valley
  • Hollingdean Park
  • Saunders Park
  • Vale Park
  • Victoria Recreation Ground
  • Wild Park

Councillor Wares said: “While we are in the middle of this pandemic, when people are going to use our parks and gardens, it is pretty insensitive to be having a consultation on capitalising on their more popular use by wanting to charge them if they go there by vehicle when many have no choice.”

The Argus:

His fellow Conservative, Councillor Vanessa Brown, said: “Our parks are a valuable resource that are free for everyone’s enjoyment, which means they are truly inclusive.

“This could hit the poorest in our city the hardest.”

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said that spending time in parks was one of the few free options for exercise in the fight against obesity.

He said: “At a time when people’s incomes have been reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing introduced, the ability to visit the park is even more essential than usual.

“Introducing car parking charges will disproportionately affect those who need free access the most. Access to the parks must remain free to all.”

The Argus:

Fellow Labour councillor Theresa Fowler asked why parks in the poorest parts of Brighton and Hove had been chosen for the proposed charges.

And, she said, Saunders Park did not have a car park.

Councillor Fowler said: “Hollingdean Park, which I can agree needs upgrading and would benefit from funding, has only a small car park with only a few spaces, maybe only 10.

“It is mainly used by local people who walk but it will have a detrimental effect on the elderly who do sometimes drive to exercise their dogs or for people who use the park to exercise.

“In these times, during covid, we need to encourage people to exercise, not impede them.”

Labour councillor Carmen Appich said that the council had assured members of Portslade Bowls Club that there would be enough parking when the council persuaded the club to move to Victoria Park.

And, she said, Trafalgar Road residents said that they would have voted against a parking zone if they thought that visitors to the rec would not be able to park for free.