Hundreds of people who objected to the introduction of parking charges at East Lothian beaches were ignored for not living there, campaigners said today.
East Lothian Council approved the controversial £2-a-day fee – or £40 for an annual season ticket – by 11 votes to nine.
The charges, put forward by Labour, which runs the authority in coalition with the Conservatives, will be introduced at ten car parks.
However, SNP councillor Stuart Currie claimed Labour ignored the views of more than 430 people from outside East Lothian – including 256 from Edinburgh and Midlothian – who responded to an online petition calling for the idea to be scrapped.
More than 880 people signed the petition, which included details of the signatories’ home town or city. The results were broken down and included in the official council report examined before the final vote was held yesterday.
Councillor Currie said: “The Labour position was ‘you can disregard half of the people who signed the petition because they don’t come from East Lothian’.
“What was the point in breaking down where everyone who objected came from in the first place?
“These are people who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in tourist towns – to ignore them and treat them as second-class citizens is ludicrous.
“It only goes to show the views of people outside the county did not count, but that said, the views of people from East Lothian didn’t count either.”
The charges have been fiercely contested by the SNP, who claim the fee will drive away tourists and prove a financial burden on those who visit the beaches regularly.
Cllr Currie added: “I don’t think this will be the end of the anti-beach charges campaign – I think it will just be the start.”
Labour councillor and environment spokesman for the council, Norman Hampshire, said: “That’s not the case, although Councillor Currie did try to suggest that’s what people were saying.
“Of the 880 people who contributed to this petition, 450 lived in East Lothian, but nobody made any sort of case against anyone who made an objection.”
Charges will be introduced at three car parks at both Longniddry Bents and John Muir Country Park as well as at Gullane Bents, Yellowcraig, Whitesands and Barnsness.
The council will now propose a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to introduce charging, with residents – including people who live outwith East Lothian – free to lodge objections.
The fees, which will apply daily from 8am to 6.30pm, April to September, and 8am to 4pm, October to March, will be collected by a combination of automatic barriers and ticket machines, costing around £700,000 to install.
Andy Bennetts, a campaigner against the charges, was “disappointed”, and he said: “We will have to see what happens from here.”