Bring back traffic wardens was the call from a lively special Bexhill Town Forum devoted to parking issues.
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police Commissioner, told the meeting on Tuesday she would write to the Transport minister about changing the law so that police could fund traffic wardens but resulting fines go to central government.
She said: “I will try to get more PCSOs for you. You will see more police and a visible presence but it won’t happen overnight.”
She suggested residents consider decriminalising parking enforcement which worked well in other towns.
Chief Inspector Warren Franklin, Rother District Police Commander, said that Rother and Wealden were the only places in the South East that did not have civil enforcement. For the 340 tickets issued in Rother, the total cost was £6,800. He called for partnership working to free up resources.
More than 200 residents packed into St Barnabas church for this debate with a panel of six decision-makers giving views and answering questions. Several speakers mentioned lack of resources and balancing the requirements of dealing with crime and parking offences.
Hillary Randall, Chair of the Town Team and a trader, supported decriminalising parking enforcement in the town centre. Enforcement could pass to Rother and the income could be used to pay for the enforcement. This need not mean parking meters or an end to free parking, she claimed.
Her suggestion was for meters along east and west parades which would provide money to pay for enforcement of restricted parking in the town centre.
The Chamber of Commerce, however, wrote to say at a recent meeting its members had voted against decriminalisation. While they would welcome traffic wardens as a deterrent, they did not see this as a realistic option.
Cllr Carl Maynard, East Sussex County Council Lead Member for Transport and the Environment, felt that if decriminalisation took place in Bexhill it would have to be done across Rother including towns and villages. He estimated it would cost around £200,000 with about £250,000 per annum ongoing. Other things could be done such as double yellow lines and changing the structure of the roads. He said: “We could extend the residential permit scheme to more residents. There would be a charge – but it might displace the problem to another part of town. There is no easy fix. There is no pot of gold available to local aythorities or police to pay for this.
Cllr Simon Elford, Rother Cabinet member for Bexhill, said that Rother’s position was that people in Bexhill were against paid parking. Free parking was a draw to the town.
Sussex Police Commissioner Katy Bourne said the budget for policing in Sussex was £250 million a year but £52 million savings had to be found next year.
Comments were invited from the audience and Cllr Stuart Earl thought changes to Devonshire Square had been a mistake but that it could be made into a transport hub for buses and taxis. This would release bus stops and taxi ranks for parking.