A man being charged £360 a year to drive just 70ft was today backed by a leading councillor who said: "It sounds extortionate."

Simon Searle, 38, was ordered to pay the cash by Worthing Borough Council for using a service road at the rear of his terraced house.

Initially he signed a deal with the council to drive over its land but he is now refusing to pay.

Coun Bob Smytherman, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on the council, said: "It is unbelievable. I cannot believe the council is doing this to him. This is pathetic. It sounds extortionate."

Mr Searle, of Graham Road, spent £4,500 turning his backyard into a hardstanding for his car so he didn't have to park in front of his town centre home.

He decided to create the parking area because it was so difficult to find an on-street space in Graham Road, which leads to Montague Street - Worthing's main pedestrian shopping precinct.

But to park his car he has to drive the short distance along the wheelie bin-lined service road, which is situated in the shadow of a multi-storey car park.

Mr Searle, who pays £1,000 a year in council tax, said the cost was about £5 a foot.

He said: "It is petty bureaucracy gone mad. What harm am I doing just driving around the corner? I am actually helping to relieve congestion in the town centre.

"It's ridiculous. The council has threatened to take me to court because I have refused to pay."

He said the situation was made even more ludicrous by the fact that after 5pm, when traffic wardens finished work, the service road was packed with illegal parkers, many visiting local restaurants.

Mr Searle, whose car has been vandalised when parked in Graham Road, said: "I am being penalised for being open and honest. If I hadn't approached the council to ask if it was OK to do the work they wouldn't have known anything about it."

In a letter, Bob Cliff, the council's estates officer, said: "It is acknowledged that parking in a town centre location can be difficult.

"In the case of your property, you have only been able to provide a parking space within your rear garden, for your exclusive use, by using adjoining privately-owned land over which you have no rights."

Coun Smytherman said the council was being heavy handed and a compromise should be reached.

He said: "There has been a problem for years with illegal parking on the service road.

"If the council is going to let all these people get away with parking on the land illegally why should Mr Searle be penalised for doing the right thing?

"I think this is definitely a case for compromise."