The meeting reconvened at 20:00
The Chairman opened the item by explaining the background behind the petition.
The Board discussed the nature of the petition, highlighting that it was not a conventional petition for the Council to accept as it had been submitted electronically and had not been supplied with a full list of signatories and their addresses for the Board to examine. It was noted however that the issue had garnered significant public interest therefore the Board unanimously agreed to accept the petition.
The Chairman invited Mr Mark Coates to speak with the Board and make representations on behalf of the Lead Petitioner.
Mr Coates gave a representation as Petitioner Representative. They felt the car parking charges were an additional tax on local people as it was primarily Borough residents who used these car parks in the Winter months. He felt there was a lack of infrastructure at the seafront car parks which was not representative of the cost of using the car parks. Local businesses had been negatively impacted by the increased cost of using the car parks and trade was significantly lowered. Many of the car parks suffered from issues with erosion and being consistently weather-beaten given their location, which was not reflective of the cost visitors had to pay. He also explained that not everyone on Hayling Island was mobile enough to get to the sea by other means, and that the council’s desire to maximise income was deterring visitors away from the beaches and from the borough altogether.
The Cabinet Lead for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Enforcement gave a response to the petition. She explained that the comments surrounding visitors not wanting to come back to the area due to the cost of the car parks was not backed up by the figures they held and that parking charges were implemented throughout the borough. She encouraged residents to visit the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership webpages which contained information about the work taking place on Hayling Island and surrounding areas. The nature of the car parks meant the council did not have the luxury of laying down tarmac as an easy response to the infrastructure issues some held, but the Cabinet Lead wanted the Board to know the council was doing the best it could to respond to the issues.
In response to questions by the Board and Petitioner Representative, the Parking Team Leader explained that some of the car parks on Hayling Island cost more to maintain than others due to the dynamic surface they had. Natural England determined what materials could be used to repair the car parks as they are located on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The West Beach Car Park, Central Car Park and Royal Car Park were SSSI car parks and therefore required more maintenance.
In response to a question by the Board about parking for disabled residents and tourists, the Traffic and Parking Manager explained that with a registered Blue Badge in their vehicle an individual could park wherever they needed, free of charge.
In response to questions by the Board and Petitioner Representative, the Head of Neighbourhood Support explained that:
a) safety was the number one concern for any car park, hence the decision to close 50% of the West Beach Car Park to the public in November;
b) whilst the West Beach Car Park had been damaged by the strong weather and tide conditions of the 2019/20 Winter Season, it was not beneficial to immediately repair this car park until the weather improved;
c) with the new electronic payment system the parking team were able to profile the users of the car parks and collate statistics to better improve the car parks;
d) as car parking charges had not been imposed before 2018 and had remained the same price since, there was no way of accurately determining whether the charges had disincentivised visitors from using the car parks and the seafront businesses;
e) West Beach Car Park still had a level of enforcement operating within it and the Council would be monitoring the levels of maintenance required in better weather to be implemented in the Summer;
f) electronic payments through the app ‘RingGo’ meant that no visible tickets were needed in order to park in the seafront car parks.
The Cabinet Lead for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Enforcement gave a final statement. If any busisness believed that they had suffered a decreased footfall due to parking charges she encouraged them to approach the council with business plans in order to ascertain whether the council could offer any assistance. The Parking team would look into reviewing charging policies and how permits can benefit both the council and residents alike.
The Petitioner Representative gave a final statement. They felt there was a lack of infrastructure, pliability and dynamism to the car parks at present and did not feel the current charge was proportionate to the current quality or functionality of the car parks. He felt the surfaces of some of the car parks were difficult to negotiate and residents wanted there to be a sense of fairness and encouraging the local strip to thrive.
The Board then debated the matter. While Members empathised with the anecdotal evidence of businesses suffering or residents unable to find adequate parking, they felt the charges currently imposed were appropriate given charges found in other areas of the Borough, and that the quantity of free parking found on Hayling Island in the Winter months was more than sufficient in order to allow visitors to park without needing to pay. They felt that parking permits were a worthwhile investment and were wide-ranging and flexible enough to allow anyone to park where they desired on Hayling at the price they were willing to pay.
The Board therefore unanimously AGREED that no further action be taken in response to the petition.
The Chairman thanked the Officers, Members and Petitioner Representative for their time and chose to defer the final item of the meeting to the new municipal year.