Two matters of major concern to men in the city – sex and parking

Here is an article in last week’s The Argus entitled, Parking fees rising too high too quickly. The article is written by Adam Trimingham and is about parking in Brighton.

It was once stated that there were two matters of major concern to men in the city – sex and parking.

Judging by The Argus, sex has temporarily been forgotten as women join men in outrage over huge hikes in parking charges introduced by the Green-led city council.

It now costs up to £20 a day to leave a car on the seafront which puts parking fees in Brighton on a par with those in some of the world’s great cities.

I’d say opposition to the charges is not as universal as The Argus reader reactions might indicate.

There are plenty of people who feel parking fees are a good way of getting visitors to jettison their cars when coming into the city.

Another segment is against any form of parking control while a further group accepts the need for higher charges but thinks the latest rises are too much too soon.

Brighton is a tricky city in which to manage traffic. Hemmed in between the Downs and the sea, it has a high population density.

Because it largely escaped road widening in the ’60s, its main streets are those designed for the horse and cart. They are busy and narrow.

Popular resort

Brighton is also one of Britain’s leading resorts and the nearest on the south coast to London. It receives millions of visitors a year and not just in the summer.

It became obvious from the early days of motoring that control was needed. Brighton was one of the first towns to have traffic lights and parking meters were introduced half a century ago.

Brighton has more off-street parking than any other city in the south east outside London, although it may not seem that way.

National Car Parks were quick to see the potential of the place and took years of losses before eventually reaping rich rewards.

There have been times when Brighton has been overwhelmed by traffic and if you look at copies of The Argus in the ’80s you will often find headlines saying Gridlock.

Yet thanks to some wise moves in the past, Brighton is probably less gridlocked now than it was then and traffic moves better there than in most comparable towns.

Millions of people arrive in the city by train thanks to a rail service unmatched in frequency by any other resort. The bus service is by common consent the best in the provinces.

Despite steep hills and strong winds, many people use bikes and Brighton is small enough to cover much of the centre by foot.

I agree with the Greens in their bid to continue this process by creating new cycle lanes, introducing 20mph zones and making Brighton Station more accessible.

Increasing parking charges bit by bit is a way of encouraging this trend, at least among that middle group of people who are capable of being persuaded.

But the new charges are far too high, especially in Madeira Drive where trade has already been badly affected. Few people are likely to be tempted to go there by car, especially when they might have to carry almost £20 in loose change to pay for all-day parking – although the council has promised the swift introduction of cashless pay machines.

The council has now introduced a new eight-hour tariff costing £15 in the seafront high zone, which includes Madeira Drive. Whether this makes a difference remains to be seen.

Madeira Drive is unique because it has no buses and lies below a high sea wall which makes access by foot daunting for anyone in a wheelchair or pushing a buggy.

The middle section, where Concorde 2, Yellowave beach sports centre and the children’s playground are, is a long half mile from the nearest bus stop for those avoiding stairs.

After talks with traders the council made a concession earlier this year by lowering charges at the eastern end of the car parking area.

But this has not prevented a considerable loss of trade for all businesses in Madeira Drive and scores of empty parking bays are the obvious cause.

Visitors are not using alternative means of transport to reach the seafront because they are too far away. Instead they are not coming at all.

I hope there will be a time when new attractions are provided in the marina and an ice skating centre is built at Black Rock that will make it viable to run bus services in Madeira Drive.

This could be supplemented by a new rapid form of transport, perhaps a monorail, whisking people swiftly between the marina and the Palace Pier while also stopping at other centres on the way.

But until or unless that happens, charges must be lowered further in Madeira Drive.

The Argus campaign to Park the Charges has widespread support.

Charges can be raised each year to meet the laudable aims of the council but the seafront rises have been as steep as the sea wall in east Brighton, and it is good that they have been reviewed. More can be done, however.

There’s one more bonus. Solve the parking problem and Brighton can resume its traditional obsession with sex.