Thank you to all who attended our online meeting on Wednesday 5th May to discuss the parking issues in the village.  It’s very evident from all the commentary, viewpoints, and social media chats that this is close to everyone’s hearts, and there are no ‘easy’ solutions.  This is a brief summary of 90 minutes of our online discussion:

Residents Parking

Problem: Villagers who live between The Ram and the Shop are often unable to park near their homes, and limits their freedom to come and go at busy times.  Parking pressure comes from:

  • The lack of space available.  There are 19 homes on this stretch, with car space only on one side of the road, limited by the Village Hall passing point, and access to Black Tile house.
  • Some homes owning 2 cars, and also have visitors/AirBnB guests at weekends.
  • Businesses in the village (Shop, Pub, etc) needing parking space
  • Walkers heading for the Downs
  • Recent widening of Ram Beach where some residents used to park

Possible solutions: There was little enthusiasm for implementing an official Residents Only parking zone, as this would involve painting the road, additional signage, administrative hassles for residents, and annual costs for each permit and each additional car. 

Residents in this area could choose to use unofficial methods to discourage visitors, such as cones, signs etc.  The risks of this approach were that they had no legal weight, could make the street untidy, and could frustrate residents who were ok with not parking near their front doors. There were potential liability issues if for example someone tripped on a cone.  Wording of signs would need to be carefully chosen (eg Resident Parking vs Residents Only Parking). 

Access to the village

Problem: The stretch between the School and the RAM can become blocked once parked cars prevent two-way flow on this stretch.  The blind bend is a particular bottleneck.   Emergency vehicle access on a weekend is a concern for everyone who lives beyond the Village Car Park.  Nobody wants to see yellow lines or road widening.

Possible solutions:

Bollards to prevent roadside parking and protect passing-places.  Requires volunteers to place and remove cones, and cost of replacing damaged cones etc

Bollards reduce gridlock towards the RAM Sun 9th May

Expansion of parking capacity in the Village Car Park will be available next weekend and is limited to 28 days of use.   Approximately 30 to 40 spaces would be needed, and if visitors number grow, even this would be insufficient.  Planning permission would be needed for a permanent expansion.

Temporary expansion car park is now operational with space for 40 cars

Improved layout in the Village car park would provide a few more permanent spaces.

Wardens to help visitors parking was discussed.  It would need volunteers, and actual parking places to direct vehicles.  There was a risk of volunteers being abused by frustrated queuing visitors. 

next steps

There is no escape from the reality that Firle is now ‘on the map’ as a tourist destination, and visitor numbers will inevitably rise over the coming years.  The popularity of National Parks, with improved access, cycle paths and walking routes will attract more visitors, and costs and restrictions on overseas travel may further add pressure, so we need to be proactive rather than reactive.   We agreed to set up 2 groups:

short term improvements

To relieve the worst effects of increased visitor numbers this summer, such as

  • Unofficial residents parking help
  • Help with bollards and signs for access
  • Anything else that would help the community cope

Chris Antram agreed to chair this group.

long term visitor management

To work with South Downs National Park, Firle Estate, and neighbouring parishes to reduce car journeys and provide alternative solutions such as:

  • Shuttle buses
  • Public Transport
  • Additional car parks outside the downland villages
  • Walking and cycling routes ,

This group would research existing solutions, agree a Neighbourhood Plan and needs joint working between the FCA and the Parish Council.  The FCA will formally write to the Parish Council with this recommendation, and raise the Community concerns over parking with the Firle Estate. 

Thanks again to everyone who attended and grappled with the technology challenges.  Hopefully next time we can meet in the Village Hall.