Car park management

Campaign to save ‘vital’ South Downs car park wins more support

The link – a rural car park in Kithurst Hill near Storrington – is due to close next month following a row over its maintenance.

The car park is on private land at the top of Kithurst Hill and has been managed by West Sussex County Council for several years. However, the council said it could not continue – and the private landowner cannot get public insurance cover without it.

Now Storrington and Sullington Parish Council have written to the South Downs National Park Authority asking them to resume talks about parking takeover.

Horsham District Councilor James Wright is among those concerned about the closure of Kithurst Hill car park near Storrington – ‘a vital link’ to the South Downs

The council says it was informed two years ago that discussions were ongoing between the authority and the landowner about investment and improvements to the car park.

In its letter, the council says: ‘It appears that the SDNPA pulled out of these discussions at the last hour, leaving the landowner no choice but to close the facility in the coming weeks.

“The closure of this car park will have a serious impact on our local community and economy. The facility is widely used by various groups such as dog owners, equestrians, hikers, cyclists and families with young children.

“While the SDNPA’s philosophy of encouraging visitors to access the Downs on foot is laudable, the reality is that this is simply not feasible for some of these groups.”

Horsham District Councilor James Wright also supports the campaign to keep the car park open. ‘The car park is a vital link to the South Downs for residents of Storrington and visitors from further afield, allowing easy and safe access to our beautiful countryside,’ he said.

“The South Downs National Park, which pulled out of its commitment to take over the car park at the last minute, must work with the owners to find a lasting solution.”

A SDNPA spokesperson said: ‘We understand this is a difficult and moving issue. The private landowner of the Kithurst car park has been backed by West Sussex County Council, who have taken the decision to withdraw their support.

‘When the private owner said they would have to close without this help, the Authority made it clear that unfortunately they could not take responsibility for the car park.

The independent South Downs National Park Trust considered whether it could manage the car park, but decided it was unable to meet the significant long-term financial responsibilities.

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: ‘The County Council’s agreement with the landowner to manage the Kithurst Hill car park expired in 2020. We had no plans to renew the agreement – in line with our approach of concentrating resources on the county council. ground. However, a third party has expressed an interest in taking over the management. To give the owner time to negotiate a new agreement, we have put in place a temporary agreement, running until December 2022.

“Unfortunately, following discussions, the third party was unable to take over the management of the car park, so now the council will exit from the current temporary arrangement when it ends on December 21, 2022.”

John Smith

The author John Smith