The decision to ignore a petition for three hours of free parking in Burgess Hill has been criticised as being ‘contradictory’.
Burgess Hill Labour Party presented the 1,300 strong petition which aimed to boost trade in the town centre, signed by traders and shoppers, at a council meeting on December 17.
Labour Burgess Hill town councillor David Andrews said: “Burgess Hill Labour Party will continue to fight in the interests of the people of the town.”
He added that Mid Sussex District Council takes a contradictory stance on parking charges, as in surrounding Mid Sussex villages, and even in town centres on occasions in December, there are periods of free parking to boost trade.
The petition was not supported by councillors as it was agreed that based on past experience, free parking would cause traffic congestion.
Councillor Gary Marsh, portfolio holder for economic development and property, said: “Shoppers prefer to drive straight into a parking space rather than queue to park.
“Our experience is that supporting the local economy requires a much more thoughtful approach. This council works with the local town teams in a variety of ways to support local businesses.
“We are building starter units to accommodate growing businesses; we provide grant support and tax relief; we fund local business associations, buy services from local businesses and are lobbying national government for extra money to support economic growth.”
The council claim the work is paying dividends with up to 350,000 visitors using the Market Place Shopping Centre in Burgess Hill every month. Councillors also noted that use of all the council’s car parks had increased, with the largest increase (7%) in Burgess Hill.
But Mid Sussex Labour Party say the council provided no evidence to prove that free car parking does not boost shopping and trade.
Leader Greg Mountain said: “By making over a £1 million profit from traffic management Mid Sussex District Council makes it clear that making money is more important than encouraging shoppers or helping traders in our town centres.
“The Labour Party considers Burgess Hill, like the rest of Mid Sussex, a good place to live, with a great community and real development potential.
“We are not running down Mid Sussex, quite the opposite.
“We are keen to make the constituency a better place in which to live, with a thriving local economy, based on prosperous town centres for everyone to use for shopping or leisure,” he added.
The party questioned whether the decision ignored the Middy’s campaign to address current issues with the business rates system, yet sees merit in supporting some businesses by giving reliefs.