The possibility of Wealden District or East Sussex County councils helping to cover the costs of a referendum in Uckfield about High Street car parking was ruled out at a meeting yesterday.
Uckfield town councillor Cllr Paul Sparks who asked, from the floor, whether the Uckfield Town Centre Regeneration Joint Committee might contribute was accused of “seeking to create a bit of mischief” by posing the question.
Cllr Roy Galley answered: “I might get into serious trouble for this comment but I think this poll is unnecessary and premature and there can be no question from my point of view of Wealden contributing to its costs.
“The question was cheeky and I assume Cllr Sparks was seeking to create a bit of mischief by asking it.”
Nigel Hannam, director of environment and community services at Wealden Council, said it was up to councillors to decide how they wished to respond to the question but his recommendation would be that the cost of the poll, as laid out in legislation, should be picked up by the town council.
He said calling a poll was clearly an entitlement that citizens and the electorate of Uckfield were entitled to work through under legislation and process. It was relevant in terms of local democracy and that was fine.
Other members of the joint committee agreed that calling the referendum was premature, including county councillor Claire Dowling who said that, just like residents, members of the joint committee were awaiting the design for stage two of High Street improvements.
County councillor Rupert Simmons said he was surprised there was demand for a referendum at this juncture. The design was expected in late May and at that point there would be discussion as to the merits or otherwise of the proposals.
The decision to hold a referendum, at a cost of £8,000, was made at a public meeting called by six Uckfield electors that was held on Saturday night.
Read more about the referendum here: Referendum to be held about on-street parking in Uckfield
Joint committee chairman Cllr Mick Harker said yesterday that the result of the referendum would be part of the evidence looked at on the way forward.
Other evidence to be taken into account was outlined by senior development control engineer for East Sussex County Council Elaine Martin.
This will include information gained by excavating trial pits along the High Street between Bell Lane and Church Street. They will be part of the evidence of underground conditions and to identify locations for tree pits and car parking spaces.
There will also be information gathered from CCTV and basement surveys.
Detailed designs will be on display in late spring along with traffic management proposals, with construction work on stage two expected to begin in earnest late summer.