A COUNCIL has defended its decision to introduce controversial parking charges in a popular park and said any permits would have to be costly "to deter" those who are not regular walkers - including students.

Many people in Brighton and Hove have reacted angrily to the new parking charges at Stanmer Park, which were brought in on Thursday.

A petition to rescind charges for regular walkers and replace them with an annual parking permit has gained more than 1,400 signatures.

On Saturday, one of the new pay and display signs was found to have been vandalised with pink paint, just two days after the new system was launched.

The Argus: A vandalised parking sign in Stanmer ParkA vandalised parking sign in Stanmer Park

Now the council has defended the charges and said that any annual permit would have to "be set at a prohibitively high price" in order to deter certain people from parking at the park, including "commuters and people at the universities".

Joy Flowers, who launched the petition on Change.org, said she has spoken to people who are "incandescent" that a free pensioners' pass or an affordable annual permit has not been offered.

The 67-year-old said: "Two councillors have now said any permit would need to be a whopping £360 per year to be in line with the charge levied on the university campus.

"This is plainly ridiculous and totally out of step with what we already pay for a resident's permit for on-street parking, with lighting, maintained roads etc – being more than double that cost.

"Having used Stanmer for over 40 years I can say student parking at The Lodges or Chalk Hill at the top has never been an issue, whereas I do believe it has been an issue down at the front.

"The top part is used by by regulars who go every day who, quite frankly, feel totally abandoned by the council’s stance."

The Argus: Stanmer ParkStanmer Park

Joy added that taking the bus, the train or a bike to the park is "not feasible" for herself and others, including dog walkers.

She said: "I’m almost 68 with three dogs, so that's not going to happen. It’s my free choice to use my car.

"It seems they don't really want cars in Stanmer Park, yet they also want the income from the cars. But you can't have it both ways."

Parking charges at Stanmer Park range from £1 for an hour to £6.50 for 11 hours.

Visitors can pay using card machines in the Lower Lodges West car park and at the Patchway car park, but need to pay over the phone or using an app at all other locations in the park.

The money from charges is being ring-fenced to invest in the maintenance and management of the park.

A council spokesman said: “Councillors discussed the traffic orders, charging regime and other parking arrangements we have introduced at Stanmer Park in detail before agreeing them at our environment, transport and sustainability committee in September last year.

The Argus: Photo: Claire PulmanPhoto: Claire Pulman

“However, at the time they felt that any such visitor permits would have had to be set at a prohibitively high price point to deter use by people other than park users, such as commuters and people at the universities.

“Councillors in January this year considered whether to create annual permits for residents who live in Stanmer Park itself, thereby creating a separate scheme to the one for general park visitors.

“Payment for parking can be done with a credit or debit card as well as by phone app.

“Older people can go to Stanmer Park for free at weekends on the 78 bus, which is subsidised by the council.

“We are committed to reviewing the new parking schemes after 18 months.

“This will look at the charges, the issue of possible season tickets, and any other matters relating to the scheme – for example consideration of extending the subsidy on the 78 bus to enable a more frequent / widespread service.”