Brighton’s political parties are out on the campaign trail as the battle for two by-election seats at the City Council gets underway following the close of nominations this week.
Our Conservative team is out supporting our two candidates – Anne Meadows for Patcham & Hollingbury; and Dr Emma Hogan for Hollingdean & Stanmer as we put forward our case for a better run city.
This week, a big issue has come to the fore in the Hollingdean & Stanmer ward, which provides a snapshot of everything that is going wrong at the council and shows why this part of our city needs a Conservative Councillor.
The Council decided to introduce paid parking at Stanmer Park from the beginning of April; but the rollout has been a debacle, with parking meters not working on day one and the community - including pensioners who want to go for a walk – feeling let down and not listened to.
A community petition expressing frustration at how the council ignored the results of its own consultation process has been launched and already been signed by 1,500 residents. It reads:
“Stanmer Park has been a free resource for local residents of Brighton & Hove for many, many decades but as of April 2021 parking fees are payable in all car parks, the proceeds of which are to fund the upkeep of the park and woodland. Fair enough. What isn’t fair is the Council’s refusal to consider and incept an annual residents’ parking permit as can be found in places such as Southwater in Horsham. Having undertaken a public consultation where over 90% of those asked thought paid parking wasn’t a good idea or be welcomed, the Council seemed to ignore this and carry on with their plan.”
The minutes from the council meeting in September 2020 on the ‘Stanmer Park Traffic Regulation Order’ show that these petitioners are right.
Residents’ proper submissions to the consultation process on the car parking charges were ignored by the Labour/Green council at this meeting.
Our Conservative Transport Spokesperson Lee Wares spoke up for residents at the meeting and expressed his disappointment that the consultation results, including the permit idea, were being ignored. He highlighted a contradiction in the council report where parking charges were being justified on the grounds of generating revenue to improving Stanmer Park Estate but also being deliberately structured to discourage car use, suggesting an ideological bent to the plan.
Conservative Councillors moved an amendment to ask the council to properly consider the residents’ sensible parking permit idea which would help residents and the council’s revenue - but Labour and the Greens, including a Councillor representing Hollingdean & Stanmer, voted it down, instead pushing through the parking charge plan.
With their own Councillors not listening, residents have now had to resort to this online petition, however Labour and the Greens are again responding with a tin ear.
As The Argus reported this week, principal petitioner Joy Flowers, who says she has spoken to people who are "incandescent" that a pensioners' pass or an affordable annual permit continues not to be considered, has had a response from the councillors justifying their parking charge decision, revealing:
“Two Councillors have now said any permit would need to be a whopping £360 per year to be in line with the charge levied on the university campus.
"This is plainly ridiculous and totally out of step with what we already pay for a resident's permit for on-street parking, with lighting, maintained roads etc – being more than double that cost.
"Having used Stanmer for over 40 years I can say student parking at The Lodges or Chalk Hill at the top has never been an issue, whereas I do believe it has been an issue down at the front. The top part is used by regulars who go every day who, quite frankly, feel totally abandoned by the council’s stance."
Joy is absolutely right.
If Labour and the Greens had listened to their residents’ concerns or had voted for Councillor Lee Wares’ motion for the council to consider the sensible idea of a residents’ permits and brought residents along with them, then this situation would have been avoided.
Instead, just as with the cycle lanes, this council has not listened, railroaded through a decision and this time it is pensioners who want to go for a walk who are paying the price.
Hollingdean & Stanmer ward could do with a sensible Conservative councillor that will listen to and stand up for residents’ concerns.