Petitions lead to U-turn over Portchester, Stubbington and Hill Head car parking charges

FREE The car park in The Precinct, Portchester, Fareham.  ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (121180-811)
FREE The car park in The Precinct, Portchester, Fareham. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (121180-811)
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CHARGES for parking in coastal areas and district centres across Fareham borough have been put on hold for at least the next five years.

The council’s ruling Tory executive backed down from controversial plans to introduce parking charges in these areas – which are currently free – at a meeting last night.

Residents from Portchester, Stubbington and Hill Head collected a pair of petitions of more than 6,000 signatures each opposing the introduction of charges.

And in a survey carried out late last year, 77 per cent of people opposed charging in coastal car parks, with 79 per cent opposing them in district centres.

Many of the councillors in Portchesters East and West, Stubbington and Hill Head spoke out about the potential impact of parking charges, warning they would have a devastating effect on small businesses as well as on people living nearby as people searched for free parking elsewhere.

Cllr Roger Price, for Portchester East, backed the freeze, but criticised the wording of the residents’ survey that had led many people to believe charges were imminent.

However, council leader Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘Car parks, are to put it bluntly, prime real estate.

‘If the questions in our consultation were so woolly that people didn’t respond or made the effort to create petitions, we might very well be introducing charges tonight because we didn’t think residents cared.

‘We need to be able to justify our actions in not charging in all our car parks – we now have that evidence because of the actions of our residents.’

Cllr Woodward added: ‘There will be those cynically running around saying they will add parking charges next month, or the month after that, so if we put the freeze in, it will give the lie to that as well.’

But Cllr Pam Bryant for Fareham North argued that people living in her ward had to pay for parking when they visited their local amenities, which are mostly in Fareham.

She said: ‘Members of the executive should be looking at the bigger picture and looking at all the residents of the borough.

‘You can’t expect some residents to subsidise others.’

The executive agreed unanimously to continue not charging for coastal and district centre parking, with a freeze on reviews for at least five years.