Night parking fees branded an ‘attack on culture’

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A controversial plan to extend parking fees to 8pm at evening entertainment venues has been slammed as ‘mean-spirited’ in a public consultation.

The proposal would see users of Northgate car park at Chichester Festival Theatre and New Park Road car park pay day rates for parking from 6-8pm on a one-year trial.

Chichester District Council cabinet is due to consider the trial on Tuesday as part of changes to off-street car parking for 2017.

Chichester Festival Theatre said the fees would have a ‘totally disproportionate effect on theatre goers’, while New Park Cinema said a ‘large majority’ of its audience members were pensioners.

Comments submitted by members of the public called the evening charges ‘a mean-spirited idea’ and ‘a deliberate attack on culture and those in retirement’.

Among those objecting was a grandparent, who said their grandchildren would have to give up attending a Judo club at the New Park Centre as they won’t be able to afford the additional charges.

The unnamed respondent said: “I don’t have a blue badge as I don’t quite meet the criteria and would not be able to walk the distance to the Cattle Market car park.”

Chichester Ronin Judo club is one of more than 30 small businesses and community groups that use the centre in the evenings.

Charity group Talks at Six wrote that its project of weekly fundraising talks would be ‘devastated’ by parking fees, adding ‘please do not squash it in its infancy’.

Chichester BID has come out in favour of the new charges, but with conditions, such as that the impact of the trial is carefully measured and any rationale made public before it is taken further.

A report on the consultation has recommended the cabinet approves the changes and noted the 18 responses submitted represented ‘a very small percentage’ of council car park users per day.

The charges were found to be ‘reasonable and reflective of the local area’.

Alternatives, such as a fixed rate for evening car parking or a general increase to the day time tariff in council-owned car parks, were discounted as they were not advertised in the consultation and could not be implemented in April.

If approved by the cabinet, the changes will be arranged by the head of commercial services.