Planned new parking charges could “contribute to the downfall” of businesses in Horsham, the district council has been warned.
The Conservative-controlled council last month decided to raise charges again as it continued to plan for reductions in funding from the government.
Drivers parking at Swan Walk will see the cost go up by 20 per cent, with increases of between 40p (for up to two hours) and £2 (more than eight hours) and similar hikes in season-ticket prices. A quarterly ticket will go up by about £50.
Parking charges at Denne Road and Horsham Library will also rise by 20 per cent, while the council agreed increases of 17 to 20 per cent at Piries Place and three to 17 per cent elsewhere.
Charges will be introduced between 6pm and 8pm at Piries Place, Denne Road and North Street (Park House) – and the changes here in particular have been criticised by Derek Castle, of Gagglewood, Mannings Heath.
Mr Castle said in an open letter to the district council: “These charges will be an absolute insult to the proprietors of the restaurants, cafés and bars, and indeed your own Capitol Theatre, all in the East Street, Market Square and North Street area known as The Quarter.
“Having been extolling the virtues of the investments and what has been achieved by these people, Horsham District Council now wants to not only deter potential customers but to also contribute to the downfall of these businesses.
“Perhaps if the council had not squirreled away so many millions of pounds for so-called investment, instead of what it was given for, (Communities Secretary) Eric Pickles would have looked more kindly on our area and not imposed such heavy cuts.
“By pettiness and penny-pinching in aiming at easy targets in such a way, all the council will achieve is to bring shame upon itself and contribute to a lot of business being lost. With respect I suggest strongly that Horsham thinks again.”
Cllr Roger Paterson, council Cabinet member for the local economy, said many improvements had been made to car parks in the last year.
These included the introduction of pay-by-phone in four car parks, “an improved cleansing regime” at Swan Walk and the Forum, new barriers at Swan Walk, refurbishment and resurfacing.
Cllr Paterson said plans for the “near future” include new entry, exit and payment machines at Swan Walk and possibly elsewhere, low-energy lights in all multi-storey car parks, new signs, refurbishment and redecoration.
He said: “To continue funding improvements and recover costs, it is necessary to generate sufficient revenue which can be recycled back into car parks.
“A one-size-fits-all pricing policy does not work and a range of prices need to be offered, allowing customer choice. Residents, businesses and visitors favour a range of parking charges based on convenience and proximity to shops and facilities.
“To support this principle, car parking prices will be highest where there is greatest demand for spaces. Nonetheless, parking in Horsham town centre will continue to provide value for money.
“Increases in parking tariff charges will still offer the cheapest town centre car parking compared to the neighbouring competitive shopping areas of Chichester, Worthing, Crawley and