A CASH-STRAPPED council is set to slap car parking charges on families going for a day out at the beach.
Visitors to 13 favourite spots around the coast of East Lothian face having to pay up to £2 a time for the privilege of leaving their car close to the sands. The new Labour-Tory administration in East Lothian hopes to raise nearly £1 million a year from the scheme, with the money being put towards coastal regeneration.
It has asked officials to see if the charges can be introduced this summer, but may have to wait until next year.
The proposal to introduce coastal car parking charges was first put forward by Labour when it was in power in 2007, but was scrapped by the last SNP-Lib Dem coalition the following year.
The opposition SNP group today branded the charge a “tourism tax”.
The charges would apply to 13 car parks owned or managed by the council – Longniddry Bents Nos 1, 2 and 3; Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve; Gullane Bents; Yellowcraig; Linkfield, Dunbar; Shore Road, Dunbar; Tyninghame Links; Skateraw; Whitesands; Barns Ness; and Thorntonloch.
Labour council leader Willie Innes said daily charges would be “in the range” of £2, which would raise “close to £1m” per year. He said: “It is still in the early stages, but we are asking council officers to come forward with a report on how quickly we can implement the charge.
“Unfortunately we are into the summer period, but we would certainly want the charges in place for next year, if it wasn’t possible to get them in this year.
“I think people realise the council is in a particularly tricky financial situation.
“We are currently spending over half a million pounds through general services in the coastal areas, which we wouldn’t have (available) to spend in future if there was no revenue from coastal car parking. I think it would enable us to significantly invest in facilities and improve our coastline in terms of tourism and economic development.”
SNP group leader Paul McLennan branded the charge a “misguided tourism tax”. He said: “It will only serve to hit hard-pressed visitors and locals in the pocket.”
Tory group leader Michael Veitch, the deputy council leader, also opposed the charges. He said: “I have major concerns about the implications for tourism.
“We want to see as much evidence as we can of how it would actually work in practice and how much it will raise.”
Sam Christopherson of Coast to Coast Surf School, Dunbar, said: “It’s just crazy.
“It will possibly make the council more money but they will lose visitors who benefit the coastal communities. Businesses like our own will suffer.”