The Green Party today called for a referendum on controversial plans for on-street Parking charges in the centre of Eastbourne.

The town looks likely to follow Brighton, Hastings and Lewes by introducing a controlled parking scheme in 2007.

Householders will be canvassed by East Sussex County Council in the new year on whether they want their homes included in the charging zone.

Zone residents will pay about £50 for an annual permit to park outside their homes and businesses will pay about £300.

But first the Eastbourne Green Party wants the public consultation process to ask broader questions, including whether the scheme is suitable.

Constituency co-ordinator Leslie Dalton said: "The public consultation over these proposals must be far more than just whether residents want their road to be inside or outside the controlled zone.

"It must be about whether this scheme is right for Eastbourne at all. Just because Brighton, Hastings and Lewes have introduced extensive controlled parking schemes does not mean we are obliged to follow suit."

Previous parking plans in 2003 faced stiff opposition amid fears charges could spark Eastbourne's economic decline by deterring visitors.

Council chiefs say they are tabling a smaller scale version this time and hope to win public support.

However, the Greens want to know why the plans were hardly mentioned during the county council elections in May by Tories or Lib Dems.

Mr Dalton said: "Now all our county councillors are safely re-elected to county hall for the next four years, the plans suddenly return.

"Once again it is local residents left without a real say over whether this scheme should go ahead or not."

The party is also concerned any scheme should benefit residents rather than parking contractors.

Principal spokesman Clive Gross said: "The suspicion often is that such parking schemes are introduced as an easy way to raise extra money for the local authority and that the people affected by them see none of the benefits.

"We must all ensure this does not happen here."

Greens want to see:

Parking warden teams employed directly by the borough council rather than creating extra profits for
private parking contractors Zone times and charges set on a street-by-street basis so as to tackle the real
problems of congestion and illegal parking;

Residents to be able to park in their own street without extra cost
Any profits to be ring-fenced for reinvestment into public transport, cycle lane provision and enhanced pedestrian schemes.

Mr Gross said: "The borough and county council must work hard to give people real transport choice that will reduce our reliance on cars by making the alternatives safe, affordable and reliable.

"If a controlled parking scheme can be created for the genuine benefit of our town rather than for the balance sheets at our town or county halls, local people will be far more likely to embrace it."

Thursday, September 15, 2005