FAREHAM’S council leader has been urged not to introduce parking charges in Portchester as by-election candidates brand it a disaster in the making.
So far 6,000 people have signed a petition after the borough council – headed by Tory leader Sean Woodward – asked whether pay and display should be installed in the village.
Now the five candidates vying for the Portchester East seat have publicly come out against it.
And a Fareham Tory has broken ranks and spoken out against any charges.
Alison Walker, the Conservative party candidate for the ward, said: ‘Charging for parking at the castle or shopping precinct would be a disaster and would spell the death of Portchester as a village.
‘I have spoken to many people there who tell me that this should not happen. I agree with them.’
Earlier this week, the huge petition was handed in to Fareham Borough Council.
It’s after the council sent out a survey asking for residents’ views on charging in parts of the borough, including Stubbington and Portchester.
A further 7,000 signatures have been handed in to the council from business owners and residents in Stubbington.
Councillor Nick Walker, Conservative ward councillor for Portchester West, said although it is important the council looks at other ways to bring in money to keep council tax frozen, he doesn’t think charging to park in Portchester is a good idea.
‘The precinct is suffering already,’ he said.
‘We have got a lot of charity shops up there. We have boarded-up shops. It could lead to further closures. I do understand that if we are going to keep the council tax down we do have to bear this in mind.
‘The council has to make a balanced judgment.’
Councillor David Norris, Lib Dem ward councillor for Portchester East, added: ‘It’s absolutely ridiculous. If it was put in it would kill the shopping centre.’
Cllr Woodward, leader of the council, said the decision will be made by the Conservatives and ‘it will be made taking everything into account’.
‘Nowhere does it say that Fareham Borough Council is proposing parking charges in Portchester or Stubbington,’ he said.
‘I am challenged annually by the district auditor as to why we don’t charge. I have to justify that. That survey is my way of justifying it. That’s why I am so pleased people are responding.’
The vacancy for the Portchester East seat has come about after former councillor Chris Brown handed in his resignation to the council last month after failing to attend meetings. The by-election takes place on Thursday, March 15.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Alison Walker, Conservative: ‘I have lived in Portchester most of my life and am well aware that the viability of the shopping precinct is on a knife-edge and it only survives because parking is free. That precinct is used not only by residents of Portchester but by visitors to Portchester Castle.’
Geoff Fazackarley, Liberal Democrat: ‘It would kill all the shops and the businesses. It would be absolutely devastating.
‘It’s the last thing we want.
‘None of us want to live in a supermarket society where we do everything in one place and we have lost the community spirit.’
Richard Ryan, Labour: ‘The car parking issue is a big issue in Portchester. I am totally against it.
‘It would completely devastate the shops in Portchester.
‘All you have to do is go down the road to Cosham and see how clamping has affected them there.’
Manny Martins, Independent: ‘I live in Portchester and I want it to still be here in its present state in 30 years. If we can’t park for free I believe people won’t use the centre. It will die.
‘We will have no community spirit.
‘It will cost Portchester both in the present and in the future.’
John Vivian, Green Party: ‘I’d like to see more help for the shops in Portchester.
‘So I don’t support the car parking charges. They would be a mistake.
‘If they do that they could kill the shops off.
‘It’s going to affect the village because people won’t go to the shops.’