VOTE: Days numbered for free parking in Bognor Regis

Businesses around Bognor Regis have been told time is running out for free parking.

About 100 of them are needed to fund an extension of the two-hour scheme which allows motorists to leave their vehicles in two town-centre car parks.

Company owners could be asked to buy advertising in a new version of the Shoppers’ Guide as a way of helping to pay the running costs of the free parking.

The year-long trial of parking without charges for short stays at the Fitzleet multi-storey and Lyon Street sites ends on November 30.

Traders need to pay £7,000 towards the costs for the next year for Arun and Bognor councils to consider extending it.

Action to maintain the amount of free parking was called for at the second meeting of the fledgling Bognor Regis Town Traders’ Group.

Sue Holmes, the town council’s head of street scene and leisure services, told the group: “You need to be working on this now.

“There are legal processes which have to be gone through for the scheme to continue. You can’t wait until September and take it for granted it will continue.”

Paul Wells, who owns a town-centre business, said he was willing to lead the traders’ efforts to ensure the parking carried on.

“It’s very important free parking continues. The proven fact we have sold 11,000 discs for the scheme shows it is a no-brainer in terms of drawing people into Bognor,” he said. “The need to start work on driving the scheme forward is urgent and we need confirmation and assurances from the various authorities so we know where we are.”

A third car park was needed to increase the number of free spaces and increase the attractiveness of free parking, he said.

Dr Andrew Clegg, of the University of Chichester, said the guide was essential to the success of free parking: “The message you need to get across is that the guide is the vehicle to fund the parking because the traders get a discernible outcome for their money,” he said.

Free parking was launched in Bognor last December 1 to a considerable fanfare after years of stalemate. It requires motorists to pay £1 for an annual disc which entitles them to park for free for two hours in the 404 spaces in the designated sites. The discs were available from an initial 24 outlets.

It was a joint initiative between Arun and Bognor councils. Both shared the £72,000 cost, which included a one-off payment of £7,000 in lieu of a traders’ contribution which was paid by the town council to get the scheme up and running in the first year.

The 20 individuals at the second meeting of the traders’ group last week heard from Littlehampton businessmen John Stevens and Ivor Holland about the success of its free parking operation.

It has existed in their town for 14 years. Mr Holland urged Bognor businesses to follow their lead.

“By standing together as a group, you have that dynamic force to make councils listen to you and act,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Arun District Council said: “Anecdotal evidence received so far by the town council indicates the free parking scheme is having the desired effect of busier car parks and bigger footfall for local shops, and work is about to begin on more detailed data analysis.”

What do you think?

Should traders be allowed free parking? Cast your vote in the poll to the right of the screen.