VOTE: Hopes crushed over free parking in Bognor

Free car parking in Bognor Regis has been dealt a fatal blow.

The prospect of motorists being able to leave their cars in sites such as Hothamton for two hours without paying has disappeared.

Senior members of Arun District Council ruled out spending money on the initiative on their own.

They said on Monday they would only pay if Bognor Regis Town Council and the town’s chamber of commerce both supported the scheme.

But the chamber has ruled out backing it. Chamber president and chairman Nick Stuart-Nicolson has told Arun’s chief executive, Ian Sumnall, ‘the traders of Bognor would not – in the main – be in favour of a contributory scheme, particularly during this time of economic downturn.

‘It has also been said car parking in Bognor (unlike Littlehampton and Rustington) is not only for shoppers, but also for people taking part in any number of other activities, such as visiting the beach’.

Arun has put £29,000 a year for 16 years into a two-hour free parking scheme in Littlehampton.

But the town’s traders and council provide contributions towards its cost as well.

Arun chief executive Ian Sumnall said: “We will support free parking for Bognor on the same basis as Littlehampton but not any other.”

Cllr Ricky Bower said: “We have been back to the chamber three, four, maybe five times with the same proposal that exists for Littlehampton. We have to have consistent policies across the Arun district when it comes to this sort of scheme.

“It’s totally unfair for a small group of individuals from the greater Bognor area to claim a uniqueness that is not applied across the whole of the district.”

He said the Sainsbury’s money – a £500,000 donation to the town – was unsuitable for a scheme that could last for a long time.

“What do we do when the Sainsbury’s money runs out? We need to put in place a business proposition which everyone supports. It’s not sustainable to do anything else,” he said.

Paul Dendle, Arun’s councillor in charge of central services, said: “I feel utter frustration over this.

“I joined the cabinet in 2005 and, ever since, we have tried to introduce this scheme in Bognor but the chamber of commerce say they don’t want it.

“If they want equality with Littlehampton, they can have it. It’s been offered many, many times.”

Meanwhile, Bognor Regis Town Council deferred a decision on Monday about paying for free parking until its meeting next month.

Councillors were told by civic society deputy chairman Hugh Coster: “A petition in the town has so far received 3,000 signatures and support for the idea and the petition is still growing.”

Cllr Greg Burt said: “The free parking idea publicised by the civic society is undoubtedly a very worthwhile cause and something that should be considered.

“However we need to look at other ideas, and consider projects that would greatly benefit the town. We need to all have ideas that can be discussed.”

Cllr Adam Cunard said: “We need to have a lot of ideas and put them together in a big melting pot and see which ideas we can work with.”