A lot of noise has been generated recently in Brighton by traders upset by an increase in parking charges, implemented on April 1st – they are firm in the belief that the increases have driven away their customers.
Seafront businesses are demanding an emergency meeting with council transport chiefs to discuss the “unmitigated disaster” of increased parking charges. Twenty businesses have come together for the first time and are calling on Brighton and Hove City Council to ditch the increase and reinstate parking charges from last year.
Businesses in Madeira Drive, including the Sea Life Centre, the Brighton Wheel and Waves Café, say the decision by the council to increase parking charges in April has severely damaged trade. The changes saw tariffs in some parts of the city more than double overnight. Following protests from traders, the council announced it would introduce a new eight-hour tariff costing £15 in the seafront high zone, including Madeira Drive, while keeping the all-day charge of £20. Madeira Drive businesses say that even the weekend’s warm weather had failed to boost visitor numbers.
It is of course very likely that the cold, wet and miserable weather over much of the period since the increase in parking charges has had a more serious role to play in keeping people away from the seafront – either those people who have parked there, or who arrived by public transport, on foot, or on bike.
The businesses evidently don’t agree, arguing that the warm weather of last weekend (it wasn’t that warm) has ‘failed to boost visitor numbers’. Indeed
Annette Kettle, the co-owner of Waves café in Madeira Drive, said: “We have had warm weather in the past week and there is still no one parking down here because of the increased parking charges. Whether that will change if there is a heat wave I don’t know but I seriously doubt it.”
I was down in Brighton on Tuesday, and visited the seafront at about 11 o’clock in the morning. Probably not the busiest time; a weekday, rather than the weekend, and also at a time of day when children are still in school. Was there ‘no one parking down there’, despite the warm weather?
Every space full, as far as the eye can see.
All the spaces adjacent to the seafront itself – right in front of Annette Kettle’s establishment – were taken too. Note that the seafront itself is not exactly heaving; even at this less busy time, all the parking bays are full.
This suggests to me it is quite obviously weather that has been affecting the numbers of people choosing to visit Brighton seafront, not parking charges; the traders are misdiagnosing what is influencing visitor numbers, and probably also overestimating the numbers of people who arrive at Brighton seafront, and visit their businesses, by car.
I wonder if that ’emergency meeting’ the traders are demanding will still go ahead.