TOWN councillors have unanimously voted to continue backing free parking in Bognor Regis.
The vote by the 11 members at Monday’s debate means the two hours motorists enjoy without paying in two town centre car parks will continue.
The current one-year initiative in the Lyons Street and Fitzleet multi-storey sites ends on November 30. It will now carry on for at least another year. But the longer-term future of the scheme still depends on further talks between the town council and the car parks’ owner, Arun District Council.
These will be aimed at solving the differences between the local authorities. They have arisen from Arun’s recent demands to exclude four town groups from discussions about the parking and to spend any surplus money from the scheme’s subsidies on improving the car parks rather than adding further free spaces.
These alarmed the town council but all its political groups united around a proposal from Labour member Roger Nash (Pevensey) intended to maintain the parking.
He said: “Everybody here will agree we need to continue free parking for the town. It would be absolutely crazy for us, for whatever reason, to pull out of a scheme which is bringing real benefits to the town.”
He said the town council should write to Arun to say it was irrevocably committed to free parking for at least another year.
But it wanted to talk in early 2013 about the matters of surplus funding and those entitled to attend meetings which discussed the parking.
“Partnerships are very important in this matter. Arun should not be saying who should and should not be part of the partnership.
“It’s very important the people who make this town tick are a major part of that partnership,” he said.
He agreed to a request from Cllr Jim Brooks (Ind, Marine) to include the town council’s demand to see more spaces added to the scheme.
“I’m not in favour of Arun using any surplus money on improving the car parks. They take in £700,000 a year in charges and should be maintaining and improving them out of that,” he said.
Bognor’s scheme was second rate to that in Littlehampton, he claimed.
Cllr Jeanette Warr (Lib Dem, Hotham) said: “Arun should be putting that money to give us more free parking spaces.”
The town council gives £29,000 towards the scheme along with Arun. Bognor’s traders add a further £7,000.
The town’s civic society and chamber of commerce offered to help pay towards the cost so they can stay involved in the meetings.