Critics fear new Uckfield High Street parking plans will fail to meet demands

Parking campaigner Charles Mears-Lamb fears new proposals for Uckfield High Street will fail to meet traders’ demands.

Members of the town’s Chamber of Commerce executive committee are due to hear details of the proposals at a private meeting on Thursday.

Mr Mears-Lamb, although not a member of the sub committee, is seeking an invitation to attend.

He believed it unlikely East Sussex County Council had listened to the traders and the public.

The first stage of the High Street roadworks immediately brought chaos to the town (see here) and Mr Mears-Lamb roasted officials and councillors (pictured) at a public exhibition to talk about the future of the town (see here).Charles Mears-Lamb at drop-in session

He launched a petition which gained thousands of signatures to “save the High Street” and helped lead the call for a “referendum” (Parish Poll) which led to a decisive vote to retain parking.

The Chamber of Commerce will be the first to hear about the plans, followed by Uckfield Town Council, which will also be a private meeting.

A “contact group” between the traders and the project board overseeing the works will also be held before the public exhibition on June 26 and 27.

Mr Mears-Lamb said: he was a Chamber member although not on the executive, “but I am asking Fiona (Fiona Monson – Chamber of Commerce president) whether I can attend.

“They want to try and get the approval of the Chamber of Commerce. My worry is that people within this sub-committee are not High Street traders. That is what my problem is.

‘This is not a case of compromise’

“They can see there is a problem but I believe that they will try and compromise. This is not a case of compromise.

“There is no such thing as compromise: either the businesses in the High Street will work or they will not. Taking away the parking in the High Street will kill the businesses.

“It’s not rocket science. I don’t know how many times I have to say this.”

Mr Mears-Lamb, who owns Noble Wines, said he had identified “pinch points” in the High Street where paving could be widened and parking spaces removed for safety reasons.

Gain a couple of parking spaces

“I have also identified where we can gain some spaces. If they do it with common sense we would gain one to two spaces overall,” he said.

“I am the first to admit there are pinch points where the path can be widened to help people move around. But, as I have pointed out, there are places where we could gain spaces. It really, really isn’t difficult.”

He said he believed the spaces which were to be allocated for disabled drivers only were now going to be open for everybody.

“I think that is their compromise, which isn’t a compromise,” he said.

Information in ‘dribs and drabs’

Jack Dopson, of PC Home and Office, told, he was critical of information coming out in “dribs and drabs”.

He said the county council should have pushed out information to a much wider spread of people in Uckfield and the surrounding area.

He said: “The website they have is very poor. They are lacking on their Facebook and their Twitter. A lot of people do not have access; they may have access to the internet but they are not actively ‘involved in it’.

“One of my suggestions was that there should be a flyer handed out to each of the shops so they can distribute it from the shops. A mailshot is not that expensive either.

“In terms of physical media there has been very little that people can pick up if they don’t use the web.”

Mr Dopson, who also is not a member of the Chamber executive committee, said he hoped that group would follow the views given at a full meeting of members held earlier in the year.

‘We do not want a complete removal of all parking spaces’

“The general consensus was that parking has to stay. Most people agree that a couple of spaces can be lost but we do not want a complete removal of all parking spaces,” he said.

He criticised the lack of information given direct to traders before the start of phase one of the roadworks last autumn.

“We never had anyone come round with a clipboard telling us what was happening and asking us what we thought,” he said.

President of Uckfield Chamber of Commerce

Chamber president Fiona Monson (pictured) said it was not entirely clear what the county council was trying to achieve from the meeting.Fiona Monson

She said the executive committee had received enough feedback from a meeting held in January to be able to put forward views of members and would be able to give the views as a broad committee but she was not sure what impact this was going to have.

Fiona said she was concerned that the meeting was being held before one with Uckfield Town Council and before a public exhibition. “This is putting us in a very awkward position because we want to share with our members what we are told but we have to have a degree of respect for the way we are asked to run the meeting – we don’t want to be seen as untrustworthy partners in the future – and we have been told that the information at this stage will be confidential.”

Fiona added: “We will reveal whatever we are at liberty to reveal as soon as possible. I do understand the comments of people who are asking why we are getting a prior view of the plans.”

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