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THE FOLLOWING ARE THE ORIGINAL PROPOSALS PRODUCED BY THE BOGNOR REGIS CIVIC SOCIETY IN SEPTEMBER 2010.  Although we now have free parking, we are keeping all this information here and on the following pages for a while, so that readers can see all the background to what has happened.  For the latest info, click on Free Parking is Here!

Bognor Regis Civic Society, together with the Chamber of Commerce and The Business Interchange is calling for Arun District Council to introduce a two-hour free parking scheme in the Town Centre car parks for residents and shoppers as an immediate move to kick-start regeneration. A detailed proposal document on the scheme has been forwarded to Arun District Council and all its Councillors, also to Bognor Regis Town Council, and to save repeating it all here please click on Free Parking Proposal to see the document in its entirety.  And if you’d like to pledge your support for the petition (see below) click on Free Parking Pledge.   


All the major Bognor Regis Shops have supported this proposal and it is also supported by all the major representative groups in the town, together with the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) and the Town Council itself.  In addition it has received wide support from the public, with 5,807 Town Centre users signing a petition calling on Arun District Council to introduce a scheme. The petition said:

“We, the undersigned, call on Arun District Council to immediately introduce free two-hour parking to all Bognor Regis Town Centre car parks.  This to use a disc-based system as used in Littlehampton and funded from £500,000 and £2.7 million received from Sainsbury’s and Butlins. Also to seek to persuade WSCC to introduce similar free on-street car parking using the same system to all currently charged areas except residents’ areas.”


The intention of the proposal is not to benefit any particular sector of the public, i.e. car users, the traders, the leisure operators etc.  To look at it that way would be a classic dog-in-the-manger approach and can only be regarded as negative and counter-productive.

This is intended as a regeneration scheme to benefit us all, and it is the only regeneration scheme yet proposed by anybody which is:  a) deliverable now,  b) affordable,  c) already proven to work elsewhere,  d) easily measurable as to its effectiveness, and  e) supported by virtually the whole town.

It will work simply by attracting residents from surrounding areas back into the town.  Those residents who have frequently been heard to say that they used to come into the town for the Bank, or some other errand, and did a bit of shopping at the same time - and who now go elsewhere.  The small increase in footfall will increase the viability of some of the shops and other traders will see the opportunity and open up in the empty shops.  Word will get round as to the improved shopping and more shoppers will come.  Cafes, restaurants etc. will see the opportunities and open up too.  Free parking will bring lots more people to enjoy all these, and before we know it we will have a busy, vibrant town which all of us can enjoy. That is the beginning of real regeneration.

There is much more to the proposal, and to find this out please click on Free Parking Proposal.  Meanwhile, there have been many questions and comments raised in connection with this, and so we have included a Free Parking FAQ below.  However, if you have any queries not answered here, please click on Contact Us and use whichever method you prefer to get in touch - we welcome your enquiries.

  1. Shouldn’t the money be spent on something more tangible?  What exactly please? The objective is to increase footfall and we know of nothing in this price range that can be done right now and will almost immediately provide increased shopper footfall on a continuous repeat basis.  We have repeatedly asked and NOBODY has come up with anything remotely feasible.  Most ideas cost millions and so are sometime never or, whilst perhaps desirable, have no promotional impact to bring people repeatedly back to the Town centre to spend their money.  It is simply not good enough to say you prefer something else if you don’t know - or won’t say - what it is.  That merely condemns the town to a further limbo of nothing happening. If you know of something, please say what it is.
  2. Won’t it cost a lot of money in lost parking revenue? The truth is that nobody knows how much it will cost, because Arun District Council has never measured the effect of the Littlehampton scheme.  However, they have valued the cost to the Littlehampton revenues at £64,000 per year.  As that is the only figure anybody has, and in the interests of the equality between the towns that they insist on, that is the figure we apply.  In reality we believe it will be a lot less because:  1) As in Littlehampton, only comparatively few people will be using the discs, especially at first, so money will continue to go into the ticket machines.  2) People may want to stay longer than two hours, and they will have to pay to do this.  3) There will continue to be revenue from overstay fines. 4) There are a number of commercial opportunities in the captive audience of full car parks from which much money can be made.  All this could well mean that there will be no lost revenue at all, and the scheme may even make more money than before.  It is certainly worth trying to find out!
  3. It should be on the same basis as Littlehampton, where the traders and the Town Council contribute.  Why?  Bognor Regis and Littlehampton have many differences and one of these is a different layout. Free parking in Littlehampton is confined to the Town Centre car parks which are a long distance from the seafront and only serve the traders - whereas Bognor’s also serve the seafront and all the associated leisure facilities - thus benefiting everybody, not just the traders. And  where did this rigid notion that the two towns should be treated the same come from anyway?  If so, where is our “longest bench.” and why aren’t we sharing in the money contributed for it?  And asking the Town Council to pay is actually asking the few residents of the Town Centre to pay TWICE OVER when everybody benefits from all around the area. They would pay once in their Town Council precept, and then again in their council tax to Arun.  And if the traders live within Arun District they are also being asked to pay TWICE OVER.  Worse still, a small trader who lives over the shop (or in the four central wards) will be paying THREE TIMES OVER - hitting these small traders worst of all. This is wholly wrong and is an outdated and faulty concept from a decision made 14 years ago when circumstances and financial options were entirely different.
  4. Is free parking sustainable?  Yes, but it will need an initial 3 year pilot to establish its value.  Increased shopper footfall and spend will attract more and better shops, and will also attract developers to provide more shops.  Increased money in the shopping centre will mean that the retailers will not want to give up the advantage they have gained - it will be easy to persuade them to contribute to an extension of the scheme once they’ve seen the benefits.  Also, there are massive commercial opportunities in the captive market of full car parks, not to mention the discs themselves and all the spin-offs.  There is a great deal of money to be made, which can fund the continuance of the scheme and other things as well.
  5. Why shouldn’t the retailers pay for it?  Because this is a regeneration scheme that will benefit all of us, the whole town and surrounding areas.  We don’t ask cyclists to pay for the cycle lanes or swimmers to pay for the seafront showers.  This is for ALL of us, and if the Sainsbury’s money is used a retailer WILL be paying for it - what is more appropriate than they, with their large free car park, paying for free parking in the heart of the Town and supporting the Town Centre shopping and leisure facilities?
  6. Where is the evidence that this will work?  Look around you at the massive rise of the out-of-town stores and shopping malls with their free car parks which cost them millions.  Do you suppose for one moment that the retail experts that run them don’t know what they’re doing?  They’d love to charge for parking, but know perfectly well that it would drive their customers away - which is what we’ve been doing all these years.  They know that free parking is the key to bringing the customers back again and again - what more evidence do you need?  Furthermore, unlike any other proposed regeneration scheme, this one is instantly measurable - put a counter on the car parks and do a quick survey to establish average shopper spend per car.  Instantly you will know how much the prosperity of the Town Centre has increased.  You can’t do that with any other scheme.
  7. It hasn’t done much for Littlehampton.  We don’t know what Littlehampton would be like if it didn’t have the scheme, because it’s not been properly evaluated or measured.  Furthermore, their scheme hasn’t been promoted properly - or even at all - and few outside the local area know about it.  Their scheme is ineffective and has been wasted.
  8. I would prefer to increase the quality of the shops. Exactly how please?  Higher quality shops will not invest the money to come here until they see higher footfall and higher spend.  Marks & Spencer left because of “poor quality footfall,” and look at Worthing and their failure to attract Primark because of high parking charges and reduced footfall.  You can’t bribe or coerce shops to come, but they WILL come when they see the prospect of lots of shoppers spending money.  So the only way to do that is free parking to bring the people here in the first place - then increased quality shopping will automatically follow.  But, of course, if you have a better plan, please tell us exactly what it is.
  9. Couldn’t we put on more events instead?  Do that as well, what’s stopping us?  But events on their own will not do the job, as we already know because we’ve had events for years with little effect.  They are good to have but they are transitory in nature, people come for them and leave and there is little evidence that beyond the immediate area where they are held there is much impact on the Town.  So yes, we should have lots of events but they are not a regeneration strategy.
  10. There’s no evidence that people are put off by parking charges in Brighton. Nobody knows that, Brighton is so large and has so many facilities.  For this reason it is pointless to compare Bognor Regis with Brighton or Blackpool or any other large seaside resort.
  11. Put the money into the Tree House cafe, restoring the Pier, upgrading the seafront or a new cafe on the Esplanade site.  All fine, but they will cost millions that nobody’s got, and as a result will happen sometime never - and so we remain in limbo and nothing happens.  And while they’re desirable, there’s no evidence - just guesswork - that any of them will actually do anything to regenerate the Town, stimulate the shopping centre or do anything other than be nice, expensive additions to the Town.
  12. Wait for the Watersports Centre.  Another maybe sometime scheme which will cost millions and for which there’s absolutely no evidence at all that it will attract much more than an undefined number of watersports enthusiasts who may or may not take the trouble to dry themselves off and come into the Town Centre. Great to have, but while we wait for it - and if we get it we wait to see if it works or not - we remain in limbo...
  13. What will free parking cost? The Littlehampton scheme is funded by £29,000 each from Arun District and Littlehampton Town Councils, plus £6,000 from the traders.  That means Arun values Littlehampton’s scheme at £64,000 a year, so since they like to insist on equality a pilot 3 year scheme for Bognor would cost £192,000.  Over the 14 years Arun’s contribution to Littlehampton’s scheme - mainly funded from Bognor’s parking revenues - has been at least £406,000, so Bognor - in the interests of equality - is perhaps entitled to a suitably equivalent sum.  Not to mention that Arun’s budgeted surplus for 2010/11 parking revenues is £647,000.  In the light of all that, plus the Sainsbury’s £500,000 and the interest from the Butlins £2,7 million, a mere £192,000 doesn’t seem to be too unreasonable....especially, as shown in 2 above, it could well turn out that the scheme is revenue neutral or may even make more money than before.


New research carried out by Bognor Regis Civic Society has shown that the adoption of the proposed two-hour free parking scheme could boost the annual number of vehicle visits to the town centre by 91,000, bringing an extra 136,000 shoppers and visitors into the town.  The additional spending brought into the town by this is calculated to be at least £1.25 million, which would be a welcome boost for the retail and leisure industry, and producing valuable spin-offs for community and public projects.

A valuable additional benefit is also shown to be a boost to the jobs market in the Town as a result of new opportunities that would spring from this.  Extra staff will be needed by retail and leisure outlets, and new businesses will fill the current 30 empty shops.  This will create more than 490 new jobs, adding additional wealth to the Town Centre economy.  If this is added to the extra visitor income, this is calculated to be worth more than £2 million every year to the Town’s economy.

“This is an extremely powerful argument in favour of the Free Parking proposals,” said Hugh Coster, Civic Society Deputy Chairman, “and one that cannot be ignored by any responsible election candidate or future Councillor.  Especially when it is realised that this massive benefit can come at minimal cost - a 3 year pilot scheme will cost less than £192,000 and could well be self-sustaining thereafter.  That’s a return on investment of at least 1000%, which is good news in anyone’s language.  At the very least, the project has to be well worth pursuing, and we call on everybody in the Town, particularly election candidates, future Councillors and Council Officers to work together to make this happen.”

Candidates and public, please pledge your support for the Free Parking petition now by clicking on Free Parking Pledge


It has come to our notice that some election candidates used crafty words on their leaflets etc., mostly those in the “NO pledge received” category, to  make people think they support the petition.  They say something vague, like “we support free parking as in Littlehampton” or “in principle” or some such, which really means they’re not supporting the petition at all. This gives them the opportunity, if they choose, to slide out of the whole thing after the election, when they’ve got your vote.

Make your own mind up about people who adopt such tactics, but meanwhile unless you find them under “pledge received” on our table or they clearly state that they support the Free Parking petition, be very wary of their real intentions.  If they really and genuinely support the petition they would say so.