Beach car parking charge protesters issue challenge

Campaign posters at Longniddry car park
Campaign posters at Longniddry car park
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CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to introduce car parking charges at popular Lothians beaches have challenged the council to reveal what the money will be spent on.

East Lothian Council officials are recommending a £2 fee be introduced at ten of the county’s 13 coastal car parks.

The £440,000 which is expected to be generated from the charges – a sharp drop from an original estimate of £1 million – would be invested in coastal regeneration.

But the SNP claim £600,000 has already gone towards improving local beaches, leaving a question mark over why the new charge was needed.

SNP Councillor Stuart Currie said: “Labour’s line is, if we don’t do this, we can’t improve the car parks and toilets.

“The papers going to the council makes it crystal clear – any money raised will go towards the facilities at the beaches, it can’t go towards education or other areas.

“We put in place a budget to fund £600,000 worth of major improvements. The contracts have already been awarded and some of the facilities 
completed, so what’s the purpose of raising this revenue?

“The Labour group have not said exactly what they are going to do with the money. It’s been described as a tourist tax – well, if it barks like a tax and smells like a tax, it’s a tax.”

The £600,000 of funding was earmarked for new coastal toilets at Yellowcraig Beach car park and at Linkfield, John Muir Country Park, Dunbar.

A report on beach charges will be debated by the full council on Tuesday. The move looks likely to be passed thanks to support from Tory and independent councillors.

Andy Bennetts from Haddington, a campaigner against the charges, said: “The figures don’t stack up – that £1m figure was just pulled off the side of a bus. The basis of the charges was that they would be used to invest in facilities at the beach. Then they say it’s going to cost £700,0000 to install the barriers and ticket machines. You could make a lot of improvements to the car parks for that, so why not spend it and have no car park charges?”

Under the proposals, the charges – a flat £2 fee or a £40 season ticket – would apply to car parks at Longniddry Bents Nos 1, 2 and 3; Gullane Bents; Yellowcraig; Linkfield; Shore Road; Tyninghame Links; Whitesands; and Barnsness.

Mr Bennetts added: “At £2, they will need 500,000 people to park at the beach in a year. The numbers are nowhere near that. At some of the smaller beaches, you can count the number of cars parked there on one hand in the winter time.

“This is going to upset a lot of people in East Lothian. And if it turns out it’s not making enough money, will the council be prepared to scrap it?”

The Labour group were not available for comment.