People across the south coast are up in arms following Chichester District Council’s banning of classic car drivers from a carpark in Selsey.
The Manhood Peninsular Classic Car Club, a popular group who meet informally at East Beach each month, have received several threatening legal letters from Chichester District Council demanding they take their meetings elsewhere.
Letters include threats of prosecution for “criminal trespass” if drivers are seen using the carpark, as well as accusations that the club had been collecting money for charity without a licence, something organisers deny.
The club, whose members have been gathering for coffee in the Selsey carpark for over 13 years, say they have never had complaints from local residents and receive widespread support from the community in Selsey and from people across the country.
Club Chairman Les Payne said they had been left “in limbo” by the council, with no suitable alternative venue. Mr Payne told local media: “Manhood Classic Car Club was formed by a couple of local chaps in Selsey in October 2010 as a way to get together, share their interest, and enjoy a breakfast or just a coffee at the beachfront kiosk.
“As the meet was held in a public car park where anyone carpark, paying the parking fees in the summer months, the club did not realise that any permission was needed. Surely a public carpark is just that? A place to park your car?”
Now the local MP, Gillian Keegan, has stepped in following the council’s stonewalling of organisers’ attempts to come to an agreement.
Mrs Keegan, who has served as the MP for Chichester since 2017, said: “I've been following this case closely and am incredibly concerned at the way the Liberal Democrat Chichester District Council have dealt with this.
“I have written to the council to ask for an urgent explanation as to why the club has been forced to stop their meetings and will be working hard with organisers to see what can be done to restore this Selsey institution for all to enjoy.
“This all comes on top of CDC looking to increase parking charges for ordinary people across our District’s carparks – something that will only damage communities, harm businesses, and stop people travelling easily to work, school or to enjoy our beautiful beaches and countryside.”
Now the car club, which has no formal structure or membership fundraising facility, has had to spend additional funds to meet the District Council’s requirements.
Mr Payne continued: “We have had to add expense to put ourselves in the position of being able to be apply for permission to meet, including upping our public liability insurance from £2 million to £10 million pounds.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the community. Everyone is upset and angry that yet another community spirited group is being forced to stop enjoying their hobby, sharing it with the public and generating local trade.”
There is now also concern for the impact this will have on local businesses. The East Beach Kiosk enjoys regular trade from the car club during the winter months but now faces the prosect of having to close. Kiosk owner Richard Butlin said: “If the car show was to stop all together it would make the winter months very hard indeed.
“We have never heard a bad word about the car club in all the time it’s been going so I don’t understand why the council has a problem with it.”
Another local business owner, Neil Kimber, agreed: “I was disgusted at Chichester District Council’s heavy-handed action to stop the use of the East Beach carpark by the Club, even though they benefit from the parking fees collected.
“The community is devastated that once again a Selsey Tradition has been quashed by red tape and bureaucracy on the basis of so-called 'legislation' regarding this as an 'event'.”