Conservative Group Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald – has welcomed another u-turn from the Green Administration that will keep free weekday evening parking at Preston Park, but has urged them to go a step further and scrap their plans to charge at weekends.
Cllr. Theobald has been contacted by many residents and sports clubs since the Green Administration announced its intention to introduce parking charges in Preston Park, expressing their concern about the potential impacts. The charges, which are designed to stop commuters using Preston Park as a car park, would have seriously affected clubs such as the St. Peters Cricket Club and the Preston Park Youth Cycle Club, who use the Velodrome in the Park. Cllr. Theobald took up their concerns with council officers and tabled a question at a Full Council meeting and, as a result of this pressure, the Greens have rowed back, with a report going to the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Cabinet Member Meeting this Friday recommending ending charging at 6pm on weekdays.
Commenting on the partial u-turn, Cllr. Theobald said: “When we were in Administration, charging is something that we looked at very closely but ruled it out on the grounds that it would not be in the best interests of genuine park users, especially the sports clubs. I welcome the fact that evening charges on weekdays are now being ditched but I would urge the Greens to go even further and scrap their plans for weekend charging. The justification they are using for introducing charges is to deter commuters but there are very few commuters using the Park at weekends.”
The CMM report states that weekend charges are necessary in order to ‘cover the cost of the scheme’. However, Cllr. Theobald is arguing that the Council will receive additional income from people switching from parking in Preston Park to Preston Park Avenue, which is currently virtually empty due to a 4 hour parking restriction.
Cllr. Theobald added: “Given that the Council’s annual income from its parking operation is around £25 million, I simply don’t buy this argument about covering costs. I would urge the Greens to scrap weekend parking charges in Preston Park and to review the situation after 6 months to see how it is working. To introduce what effectively amounts to a tax on local sports clubs in this City in Olympic Year of all years is completely the wrong thing to do.”