Options for car parking in Uckfield and the wider Wealden area are due to be discussed next month.
The issue is being scheduled for the March 8 meeting of the district council’s cabinet.
It looks possible that the discussion may take place in private.
The council has published a notice which states that is “anticipated that the report and appendices could contain information which is exempt from publication . . . on the grounds that it might contain information that is commercially sensitive and, if necessary, during the discussion of this information it may be resolved that the press and public be excluded from the meeting”.
Elsewhere, a senior Wealden officer has previously said the decriminaisation of on-street parking across the district remained “under discussion”.
Sussex Police is “encouraging” local authorities to take over enforcement in their areas and the leader of district council has said he is looking at various options with regards to parking enforcement.
Almost all Wealden District Council car parks are free, including all those it owns in Uckfield – those at the Luxford Field and Regency Close.
Free parking policy
Wealden has, in the past, always strongly defended its free parking policy, saying it is a boon for town centre shops and businesses.
CCTV cameras are used in Uckfield car parks to ensure people do not over-stay time limits. People are “fined” for breaches.
Control of parking on the roadside – whether in time-limited bays or on yellow lines – is down to Sussex Police, although they consider that a low priority.
In other districts – such as Lewes – where parking has been decriminalised on the back of pay parking, all control is in the hands of wardens with no role for the police.
The Leader of Wealden council, Cllr Bob Standley, said towards the end of last year that car parking enforcement was “very high on the list of priorities he was working on”.
Mr Standley has, he said, attended several meetings with the Chief Constable, Giles York, and county council officers to explore possible options.
Mr Standley reiterated he did not support charging for off and on-street parking in Wealden.
High Street parking abuse
There has been controversy in Uckfield since the completion of the High Street improvement scheme which saw a reduction in the number of car parking spaces, which are time-limited to 30 minutes.
There have been many comments since then that the spaces are being abused because there is no control.
Posters have put around the High Street asking people to obey the rules.
At the last meeting of the town centre regeneration committee in January, a question was asked regarding on-street parking enforcement.
The minutes of the meeting state that in reply:
“Nigel Hannam (Director of Planning Policy and Economic Development, WDC) confirmed that the Police were responsible for enforcement, but it was recognised this was not a Police priority.
“Wealden District Council and Uckfield Town Council had had extensive discussions on how best to achieve effective parking enforcement, and whether it could be delegated by the Police.
“This option had been ruled out and a number of other options explored, but the only one which continued to be viable was the local reporting of repeat offences to the Police resulting in follow up Police action.
“He advised that the wider issue of the decriminalisation of on street parking across the District remained under discussion, but emphasised the legal duty for enforcement was with the Police.”
Police and Crime Commissioner’s view
The Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, attended a meeting of Wealden council’s overview and scrutiny committee on January 30 when the problems associated with the lack of parking enforcement in Polegate (part of Wealden) were raised.
The committee minutes show:
“Mrs Bourne was asked whether the £5 increase in the Police precept would result in the police undertaking enforcement action.
“Mrs Bourne explained that parking enforcement was not a priority at the current time and police funds were directed towards other initiatives, such as the employment of more firearms officers, working with communities to deal with low level anti-social behaviour, and to fund expert youth teams to work with colleges and schools.
Take over enforcement
“She advised that the Leader, Councillor Standley, had met with the Chief Constable the previous week to discuss parking enforcement and local councils were being encouraged to take over enforcement in their areas.
“Mrs Bourne added that the police would support the council to introduce enforcement during the transition stage. She reassured members that if any vehicle was causing a dangerous obstruction then the police would get involved.
Enforcement not self-funding
“Councillor Standley informed members that he was looking at the various options with regard to parking enforcement. However, he stated that parking enforcement was not self-funding.
“A question was asked regarding whether PCSOs had authority to issue parking tickets and whether they had use of a vehicle. Mrs Bourne agreed to find out the answers and circulate this information to the committee.”