A PETITION of more than 4,500 signatures will be handed over to a council as residents demand a rethink on parking charges.
Campaigners from Hayling Island will hand over the petition of 4,581 signatures to Havant Borough Council at 2pm.
The petition will be accepted at The Plaza in Havant by Councillor David Collins, who oversees parking, and Hayling councillors Leah Turner and Andy Lenaghan.
The huge number of signatures has been collected in just four weeks.
It comes as islanders say increases in parking fees from 70p to £1 an hour are crippling local businesses.
They are also demanding that the council scraps proposals to introduce parking charges at Hayling Island Health Centre.
The covering letter of the petition, prepared by residents John Perry and Chris Woollacott, states: ‘This represents a statement of residents’ views which is very similar in scale to the county council election of May 2 in which Hayling residents cast a total of 4,478 votes.
‘The recent price increase from 70p for an hour to £1 represents a 42 per cent increase that is completely out of line with the rate of inflation and any increase in most people’s income.
‘That is having a deleterious effect on retail businesses in Mengham as residents are reluctant to pay such high parking fees to shop in a village.
‘There are numerous free parking facilities in Havant, including Tesco, Waitrose, Solent Retail Park and Central Retail Park, and Mengham traders are concerned that they are losing business to larger, off-island competitors as a consequence of high parking fees in Mengham.
‘This represents a real risk to the on-going viability of Mengham as a retail amenity.
‘A brief review of parking charges levied by other local authorities underlines our contention that Havant Borough Council’s are unreasonably high.
‘One can park for 50p per hour in Petersfield and 70p per hour in Chichester and Fareham.
‘These offer much larger shopping areas than Mengham, yet parking costs are lower.’
To allay residents’ fears, the council is now planning to introduce a pilot scheme offering 20 minutes of free parking in Mengham.
However, the campaigners’ statement says: ‘For anything less than a single shop visit, the free parking is irrelevant and it will still cost £1 to park for 21 minutes in what is a village shopping amenity.
‘For businesses, such as hairdressers and coffee shops, where a customer visit is typically longer, the parking charges will still be high and some customers will simply stay away.’
The letter adds: ‘The discovery that you intend to charge patients to park when they visit the health centre has raised a great deal of anger among Hayling residents.
‘Everyone is aware of the pressure on the council budgets but to raise additional revenue by charging sick people to park when they visit the doctor is little more than a stealth tax on the sick.’
However, council leaders have stressed that visitors pay at other health facilities, including Havant Health Centre and Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The residents’ letter adds: ‘We call upon you to listen to the strength of feeling that our petition reflects and give serious consideration to the requests which have attracted such widespread support.’
The council will have to debate the parking policies as residents have collected more than 1,500 signatures.