Opposition from AFC Portchester fans grows as parking charge plans for Wicor Recreation Ground rumble on

Tensions from non-league football supporters are rising over developing plans to implement parking charges at their ground.
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Fareham Borough Council (FBC) is considering whether to classify the car park outside Wicor Recreation Ground – home to table topping AFC Portchester – as a ‘coastal car park’. Supporters and other residents would then be expected to pay to watch matches.

According to an FBC report, the council expects to earn an estimated £31,434 a year if the three solar powered pay-and-display machines are installed – with the site having 109 parking bays and being used walkers and skate park users. The first look at the proposals went before the Health and Public Protection Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday evening.

Wicor Recreation Ground car park in Portchester, Fareham. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121180-843)Wicor Recreation Ground car park in Portchester, Fareham. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121180-843)
Wicor Recreation Ground car park in Portchester, Fareham. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121180-843)
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AFC Portchester said in a statement by yesterday lunchtime, a petition against the plans had reached nearly 1,200 signatures. This contained comments from councillors and residents.

At the meeting, it was heard that 19 deputation requests had been received and 123 further comments. Concerns raised included issues with local roads, the effect on access and recreation and others.

Roger Britton, a Portchester resident of 41 years, voiced concerns about the effect the plans would have on those users of Wicor Recreation Ground with medical issues like autism, ADHD and mental health problems – as those people use the grounds for respite and to meet friends.

He added if the charges were enforced, those people would stay away from the site. ‘Let’s not throw hard pressed people under the bus for profit,’ he added.

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Councillors Chrissie Bainbridge and Paul Nother, Liberal Democrat councillors for Portchester East, opposed the plans. Both councillors said they received an unprecedented number of concerns.

Cllr Bainbridge added: ‘Unlike the council, people simply can’t just turn to another revenue stream in their household budgets.’ An executive committee meeting is being held on Monday.

When asked for his opinion, Council Leader Seán Woodward, Conservative, told The News: ‘We will be making a decision on Monday evening, along with my colleagues on the executive committee. We’ll listen to any deputations, consider any petitions, and we’ll make a decision.’

Cllr Woodward claimed FBC was the last council to implement coastal parking charges, with other authorities in Cornwall and the south coast establishing them a few years before their decision. ‘We have rolled the programme out over the last few years,’ he added, ‘the reason we need to charge is that the council is facing a deficit of up to £6m because of inflation and other factors.

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‘If we are going to keep services running, we need to increase charges. This is a coastal car park, all the others have charges, and it’s right we consider this one.

‘The council needs the money and in common with other councils we will charge in coastal car parks. Whether we charge in this one or not will be determined by the executive process.’ Cllr Woodard added the council has extensively supported AFC Portchester in the past with FBC spending £735,000 on improving the hired changing rooms.

He said if the executive decides to go ahead on Monday, it would not be the end of the matter, with a traffic regulation order to be written and then a final decision to be made. ‘It’s not all over,’ he said, ‘but it has only just started.’