Hugh Coster’s response

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SO DAVID Edwards has publicly admitted that he would make the council taxpayers of the town’s four central wards annually pay twice over for two-hour free parking in Bognor Regis if he became a councillor – otherwise he wouldn’t allow it.

Commendations for having the courage to make that extraordinary admission, and there is another, Phil Hitchins of similar political colour, who wrote to me privately, admitting the same thing.

Are electors to assume that this is party policy that is being ‘kept quiet’ by their fellow party candidates?

And, at the same time, shame on both of them and all others who share this view, which probably includes most in the ‘No Pledge Received’ category on our website.

If these two had bothered to attend CiViC and other public meetings where this has been discussed they would know that this is widely regarded as being grossly unfair.

After all, why should just 17,000 taxpayers provide major funding of something that will be a benefit to all the 60,000-plus residents of the area, not to mention all the extra visitors that will be attracted?

Especially bearing in mind that those in the town centre wards are likely to benefit from it least?

This dog-in-a-manger ‘we know better’ attitude from two people who live outside the four wards is not the sort of thinking we expect from prospective councillors.

It is widely recognised that free parking will bring massive benefits to almost all who live in the area, not the least in terms of jobs and potential funding for future projects in the town.

That is why 5,807 people signed the petition, and why it is supported by the town council, the Chamber of Commerce, Bognor TBI, the Civic Society and the traders.

And neither is it reasonable for those candidates to suggest that the traders pay for it, as in Littlehampton.

The geography of the two towns is entirely different, in that the Littlehampton town-centre car parks are a long way from the seafront and only serve the traders.

In Bognor Regis they are used by visitors for the leisure facilities, seafront and much else besides, and the notion that it would only benefit the traders is mean-minded and self-defeating.

And lastly, why on earth should two different towns with different needs be bound by this rigid, narrow-minded policy that everything has to be exactly the same? 

Just because a certain decision might have been appropriate fourteen years ago in Littlehampton, when the funding options we have now weren’t available, doesn’t mean that the same decision has to be applied everywhere else for evermore.

Mr Edwards is entirely wrong to state that free parking has been turned down by the town council every year, it has been offered just twice in 14 years. 

And he clearly doesn’t know that the town council recently placed free parking at the top of its list, nor is he aware, as he should be, of how the scheme will become self-sustaining.

So our message to him and all his colleagues is please listen to the public, who know better than all of us, come and join in all the public discussion so that you will be properly informed, and cast aside all the old rigid thinking so that we can move forward.

We propose that after the election there should be a public meeting where we will be pleased to debate the whole matter and let the public decide. 

That’s the Big Society in action, your own government’s policy. What’s wrong with that?

Hugh Coster

Deputy chairman

Bognor Regis Civic Society