A referendum is to be held in Uckfield about whether parking should be removed from the High Street in the next stage of improvement works.
The referendum question requiring a yes or no answer will be: “Do you support the removal of current on-street parking provision in Uckfield High Street?”
The referendum will be held on Thursday, March 12, with people able to vote from 4-9pm.
The vote in favour of a referendum was made at a meeting tonight (Saturday, February 7) attended by about 250 people. It needed only ten people to vote in favour of a referendum to ensure that it took place. Many more raised their hands in favour.
The meeting was chaired by Uckfield Mayor Cllr Ian Smith, who said that a referendum would cost Uckfield council taxpayers £8,000. He added the result would not be binding.
Six Uckfield electors called the meeting and one of them, Josh Gibbens, said there was a significant concern that members of the Town Centre Regeneration Board were not listening to concerns of traders and residents.
“We don’t want platitudes, we want to feel we are genuinely being listened to by elected representatives.”
Chris Lawson of Lawson Commercial said on-street parking was vital in the town and a lot of retailers were very worried about stage two of works. Where some leases had expired traders didn’t want to have discussions about renewing until they knew about the car parking.
He added: “If we lose all 43 spaces some retailers have told me they will leave the town.”
Town Centre Regeneration Board chairman Mick Harker talked about the need to remove pinch points in the High Street where it was difficult for parents with buggies to pass other pedestrians.
He added space was also needed for trees and a drainage system beneath them which could help prevent flooding at the bottom of town during heavy rainfall.
He stressed at the start of his talk: “There has never been a proposal to remove all parking from the High Street.”
Many arguments in favour of retaining parking were similar to those raised at an Uckfield Chamber of Commerce meeting last month. Read those arguments here: Pleas for parking to be retained on Uckfield High Street.
But there were also voices in favour of the High Street improvements. Jon Scott said he was concerned everyone was going to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’.
He said there were four lanes of traffic and the town was totally dominated by cars with people parking stopping the flow of traffic.
New housing would make congestion even worse. People needed to walk down pavements that were wide enough and some parking was needed, while some had to go. “We have got to have a balance between cars and pedestrians. At the moment it is very heavily weighted in favour of cars,” he said.
Some people argued that now wasn’t the time for a referendum. Richard Judge said he couldn’t see how a referendum could be of any use when a concrete plan hadn’t yet come from the Town Centre Regeneration Board.
• News of the £8,000 bill for a referendum about High Street parking in Uckfield comes just as the town council has completed shaving money from its precept for 2015-16.
The council approved its budget and agreed an increase in council tax of nearly 2% at a full meeting on Monday, January 26.
This makes the Band D (average) tax base for Uckfield council taxpayers £146.66. The final council tax bill will include figures for Wealden Council, East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police and the Fire and Rescue Service.
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