A fine mist hung in the air this morning April 12 and Camber western car park was deserted, except for the large number of metal sign-bearing posts despoiling the view of the dunes. Local Camber residents Jean and Charles Cary expressed their disgust at the intrusion of so many parking notices into the natural beauty of the landscape. Jean Cary said: “Apart from the fact that they look outrageous and an eyesore, they are a safety hazard. At nine or 10 feet high, they are not securely fixed into the sand and could be blown over in a high wind and could seriously injure people. We have a large family and are worried about our grandchildren playing here.”
Paul Cartwright, the owner of the Oasis Beach Shop was equally indignant: “I’ve had the shop here for 40 years and now there’s been nothing but aggro. The Council have fixed their notices to the side of my premises without asking my consent, and put my rates up by £1,000 this year. We get people coming in here seeking change for the meters and they are abusive when we refuse.”
The changes, made following a change in the pay-on-entry system and designed to reduce queues, were reportedly the subject of heated discussion at the Owl public house. There are complaints that no consultations have been held with residents. It was not known whether the urban-style development required planning permission but no advance notice had been given.
In fact, the management of the car park has been contracted out by Rother District Council to Smart Parking Ltd, a global company head-quartered in Australia. Their website claims that they “make car-parking a stress free experience”. They also claim to be entitled to charge fines of up to £100 for overstaying time, enforced by overhead CCTV at the car park entrance. The number of meters out of order, the need to enter car registration numbers, the non-availability of small change and the necessity to bear in mind the stipulated departure time could all be factors likely to affect the enjoyment of visitors to Camber Sands.
A local visitor from nearby Rye said, “I have found the previous method of buying a ticket on entry to be a friendly and human experience, and effective in raising revenue directly for the Council. This new regime is considered hostile and inimical in a rural environment”.
Photos: Kenneth Bird