Agenda item


To consider any petitions received from the public.


A Petition has been submitted asking the Council to not install ticket machines and/or parking restrictions in the Shrubbs Field car park in Middleton-on-Sea.


As the Petition contains over 1,500 signatures it requires a debate by Full Council.


The procedure in place in the Council’s Constitution for such debates confirms:


·                The petition organiser will be given 5 minutes (maximum) to present the petition at the meeting.

·                The relevant Committee Chair will be given 5 minutes (maximum) for a right of reply.

·                Following the presentation of the Petition, Members are invited to debate the Petition for thirty minutes with each Councillor being allowed to speak for a maximum of 3 minutes.


Attached is a report from the Director of Growth and Joint Interim Chief Executive for the Council to consider in holding this debate.    



The Chair confirmed that a petition had been received containing over 1,500 signatures asking the Council “Not to install ticket machines and/or parking restrictions in the Shrubbs Field Car Park in Middleton-on-Sea”.


            An accompanying report had been provided by the Director of Growth and Joint Interim Chief Executive, as set out in the agenda pack at pages 1 to 32 which Members would consider in debating the petition.


            In line with the Council’s Petitions Scheme, set out in the Council’s Constitution at Part 8 – Codes and Protocols, Section 4 – Petitions Scheme – Paragraph 5.0 – Full Council debates, the Chair firstly invited the Petition Organiser, Councillor Haywood, to present the petition.


            Councillor Haywood then presented the petition. She referred to the following salient points. These were that Middleton-on-Sea and Elmer only had one car park which was centrally situated in the village with the access road to it being the main road through the village linking Middleton-on-Sea and Elmer. This was also the village’s only bus route and was an exceptionally busy area of the village. The road to the car park narrowed considerably near to the entrance of the car park to one side and had the pedestrian crossing to the shops on the opposite side.


A major issue was the amount of illegal parking along this road and the Parish Council had attempted to stop this over the years by encouraging drivers to use the car park. The installation of ticket machines would deter those who might who wish to use the shops and other facilities from using the car park. West Sussex County Council (WSCC) had expressed similar concerns in that the installation of the ticket machines would cause car parking to be displaced onto the surrounding roads, with a definite impact on the highway if installed. There were only two reasons for the installation and associated car parking limitations, one was the identification of abandoned vehicles, which was not a problem in Middleton-on-Sea as vehicles were easily and quickly identified by residents living in the surrounding flats. The other reason for the Council needing to obtain usage data was to enable it to better understand how its asset was performing. Councillor Haywood drew Members’ attention to the numerous changes that had been suggested to appease residents and the Parish Council that these machines should being installed. Councillor Haywood stated that any data would be compromised because residents would be able to come and go throughout the day without the need to produce a new ticket. Additionally, the data would be compromised further by the fact that the medical centre and disabled drivers could park whenever they needed to and outside of the scheme. The scheme would be compromised yet again by 23 residents at Buckingham Court being offered parking outside of the scheme. The adjoining flats at Kingfisher and Nightingale Courts were also looking to join Buckingham Court in the same regard. The concern was would they be offered the same number of permits, resulting in more compromises,  and what would happen at the end of the one year transitional period being offered. This would result in Shrubbs Field becoming an underused car park. Further concerns were expressed over the length of return time allowed under the restrictions, and why this could not be extended further to fit in and around shop opening hours and for carers working an evening shift.  The collection of a ticket could also be actioned around an App that could be actioned around the beginning of the day allowing residents to come and go all day long without the need to collect a new ticket each time. These individual journeys would not be logged and how would the one hour return time be enforced.


It was confirmed that the Shrubbs Field car park was not just a council asset, it was a safe, well maintained and well used car park meeting the needs of shoppers and visitors whilst also providing support for local businesses. It was a community asset promoting a sustainable environment and created a positive parking experience. Why  did the council need to change what worked perfectly well. In the past residents had willingly contributed to its maintenance through the Parish Council and they would reconsider this option if they felt that their council tax was being wasted on the installation of redundant ticket machines. The machines had been installed in the car park prior to the petition being heard and had been continually opposed by residents and the Parish Council. Councillor Haywood urged Councillors to support the petition and not to install the ticket machines or parking restrictions which would have no impact on the broader car parking policies of the Council. She urged Councillors to listen to the 1,670 voices that had signed the petition.


            Having thanked Councillor Haywood for her presentation, the Chair then invited the Chair of the Environment Committee, Councillor Wallsgrove, to make a response to the Petition. 


Councillor Wallsgrove stated that rather than inviting Full Council to consider the petition, it should be considered first by the Environment Committee, however she asked Members to debate the petition now.  Councillor Wallsgrove referred to the detailed Officer report accompanying the petition which set out the facts, some of which she referred to. Firstly, she reminded Members that Councillor Haywood had attended the meeting of the Environment Committee held on 21 November 2023 and had spoken during the debate on whether to introduce parking restrictions at Shrubbs Field. This meant that in considering the item, the Committee had heard all arguments presented, whether these were for or against the proposals. The Committee having listened to the debate had concluded that it was appropriate to introduce the restrictions. Secondly, the purpose of the restrictions was to allow the council to control the use of the car park and to address any abuses that occurred. This could not be undertaken without the introduction of the restrictions. What was proposed for Shrubbs Field was not unique, as there were examples of car parks elsewhere along the Sussex Coast where these introductions had been implemented and Councillor Wallsgrove provided some examples.


In considering the proposal, Members had a responsibility to consider the wider picture and to determine what was best for the district. This had happened at the meeting of the Environment Committee and there was no logical reason to not stick with the original decision made. Members were also reminded of the various measures introduced to mitigate any impacts locally in introducing the changes, the report had explained these fully. Councillor Wallsgrove also raised another concern that many opposing the restrictions had made, which was that their concerns related to car parking charges being introduced. Councillor Wallsgrove confirmed that this was not a proposal for the Council to consider and that the debate of any charging considerations would be a matter for the Environment Committee.


In concluding, Councillor Wallsgrove invited Members to support the original decision made by the Environment Committee but that in recognising the strength of feeling confirmed by the petition, it should take steps through the Environment Committee to confirm that it would not introduce charging for the remainder of the political cycle, until May 2027. Councillor Wallsgrove therefore proposed “that the petition be noted, and that Full Council agrees to recommend to the Environment Committee that, at the next review of parking charges across the district, that the Committee not consider introducing charges for the Shrubbs Field car park for the remainder of the political cycle ie until May 2027”.


Councillor Stanley then proposed this motion.


The Chair then invited debate on the petition. 


Debate commenced with Councillors confirming their concerns that the introduction of the ticket machines might result in car parking charges eventually being introduced at Shrubbs Field. If this was not intended, then the ticket machines should be removed. Was their introduction the best way of gathering the data that the Council needed to review. 


Other Councillors confirmed that they were against the proposal to refer the petition back to the Environment Committee as that Committee had already made its decision. There were almost 1,700 residents who had signed the petition and so had confirmed that they wanted Full Council to consider it.


Varying other views were expressed. Some Councillors confirmed that they were mindful of the points raised but accepted that any data gathered needed to be robust and should be used to inform future decisions, especially on a matter that was this controversial and would provide a wealth of information on what to base recommendations on for the future.


Concerns were expressed over a lack of consultation with West Sussex Highways in terms of the impacts on highways in the vicinity and as the ticket machines had been installed retrospectively and in advance of consultation with WSCC. It was felt that the local impact would be immense and so based on this, there were Councillors that supported the petition. The concern was that the installation of the ticket machines would encourage illegal parking elsewhere and would discourage users from parking in Shrubbs Field. 





A tribute was paid to Councillor Haywood in recognition of her tireless campaign. This was because it was an accepted fact that illegal and dangerous parking was a major problem in Middleton-on-Sea and was of great concern to its residents. Introducing restrictions in Shrubbs Field would  have a huge impact on the road and immediate area outside of the car park. As already highlighted, the late consultation with WSCC was of equal concern. Due to an objection having been received from WSCC, the ticket machines although installed were not operational. This petition was seen as the Council’s chance to listen to the public and nearly 2,000 objections. On this basis, it was felt that the matter needed to be concluded now at Full Council and should not be referred to the Environment Committee, and that the Council should support what the petition was asking for.


In continuing the debate, other Councillors responded to the concerns raised over consultation and especially with WSCC.  The report at Paragraph 5 [Consultation] set out and confirmed that consultation had taken place ahead of the Environment Committee held on 21 November 2023. The report confirmed that the required consultation had taken place with WSCC prior to November 2023, with no objections having been raised. In view of this, many Councillors supported the motion and that the matter be referred to the Environment Committee to confirm that at the next review of parking charges, it be considered to confirm that charges for Shrubbs Field would not be pursued for the remainder of this political cycle.


Councillor Stanley, as seconder to the motion, reminded Members that the report accompanying the petition had clearly explained the rationale behind and the need to install the ticket machines. They had been installed following a resolution made by the Environment Committee. This was to provide essential usage data and would ensure effective and efficient enforcement and to deter anti-social behaviour concerns, such as abandoned vehicles, which were concerns that had been raised by members of the public and residents during the consultation period. The Council was identifying that the petition had been considered and the concerns listened to by making a recommendation to the Environment Committee to not introduce charging at Shrubbs Field for the rest of the political cycle of the council. 


Councillor Wallsgrove, as the proposer of the motion, confirmed that the petition needed to be debated now with the Council supporting the decision made by the Environment Committee. She then outlined the cost to the council in removing abandoned vehicles confirming that so far in 2024, four abandoned vehicles had been removed at a cost of £3,000 to the Council.


Before proceeding to the vote, the Chair outlined that the petition had asked the Council to not install ticket machines or parking restrictions. The wording of the motion did not respond to this request as it only addressed the applying of car parking restrictions.


On putting the motion to the vote, it was declared CARRIED.



The Council




That the petition be noted, and that Full Council agrees to recommend to the Environment Committee that, at the next review of parking charges across the district, that the Committee not consider introducing charges for the Shrubbs Field car park for the remainder of the political cycle ie until May 2027”.


The Chair outlined that it would now be necessary to debate the issue of the installation of the ticket machines and restrictions.


Following advice from the Group Head of Law & Governance and Monitoring Officer, it was confirmed that following the motion just passed, the debate was ongoing as Members had not addressed the petition asking the Council not to install the ticket machines/parking restrictions. It was confirmed that a vote on this aspect of the petition and whether this should be accepted; or rejected; or referred elsewhere should take place.


            Following further discussion, Councillor Walsh confirmed that he wished to propose “that the Council support the Environment Committee decision”. This was seconded by Councillor Nash.


            As this new proposal caused considerable confusion amongst Councillors, the Chair explained that a decision had been made by the Environment Committee in November 2023, and the petition received was asking the Council to reconsider that decision.  The motion just passed, addressed concerns raised about car parking charges being introduced. It had not addressed the issue of installing ticket machines or introducing car parking restrictions. If Members were wanting to agree with what the petition was requesting, they would need to vote against the motion just proposed by Councillor Walsh and seconded by Councillor Nash. 


            The Director of Growth and Joint Interim Chief Executive drew Members’ attention to the words contained within the motion just passed, as displayed at the meeting. This confirmed that the petition had been noted by the Council with the issue of ticket machines and parking restrictions being addressed as the Council had agreed to note the petition.


            Following further debate and questions, the Chair, having taken advice, confirmed that as the Motion passed had noted the petition, Councillor Walsh had confirmed that he would be withdrawing his proposal. This meant that any Councillor who had voted against the motion carried, had voted in support of the petition.


The Chair applauded Councillor Haywood for her work on the petition. 


(During the course of the debate on this item, Councillor Bence declared a Personal Interest as a Member of West Sussex County Council).


Supporting documents: