Beach car parking protest
Pictured are some of the protestors on Sunday.
MORE than 100 people are said to have taken to the East Lothian coast on Sunday in protest at proposed coastal car parking charges.
The SNP Group on East Lothian Council led the protest, which saw residents and tourists gather at Longniddry Bents, Gullane Bents and John Muir Country Park, Dunbar.
They are unhappy at plans from the council's Labour/Conservative/independent administration to introduce charges of about £2 per day at 13 coastal car parks which council leader Willie Innes (Lab) believes could raise up to £1 million per year - though Councillor Michael Veitch (Con), depute council leader, is opposed to the policy.
The proposal has drawn criticism from business and sports clubs who say the charges will drive tourists away.
But Mr Innes said he was "not surprised" by the objections and said a previous consultation on coastal parking charges showed a much lower level of opposition.
Labour had planned to introduce the charges while in power in 2006, but the policy was later scrapped by an SNP/Lib Dem administration.
Councillor Paul McLennan, SNP Group leader, believed more than 100 people had turned out at Sunday's protest.
He said: "We spoke to over 600 people with about 99 per cent support for our campaign.
"There were locals and tourists alike, with many asking the reasoning for the charge and saying it will be counter productive."
Mr McLennan added: "A freedom of information request has also shown that traffic figures [at coastal sites] have not been taken for more than four years, and that the charge would be lucky to raise £100,000 - never mind the ridiculous statement by Willie Innes that this would raise £1m.
"The £100,000 figure is before additional expenditure to bring in the charge and land owners demanding their share of charging.
"This charging proposal is facing mounting opposition, has no business case and will harm tourists and residents alike. Over 125 people alone have signed the online petition in just three days and is now has more than 740 signatures.
"Our campaign will continue with further campaigning at beaches in the next few weekends. We have also asked residents and tourists to write to their [local] councillor and Mr Innes stating their opposition to this charge."
But Mr Innes told the Courier: "Of course, if you ask people if they want to pay for something they're currently getting free they're going to say no.
"It doesn't surprise me that 99 per cent of people [the SNP Group] spoke to were opposed to an additional charge.
"We were aware of that when we decided to [introduce charges] in 2006.
"But we are in serious financial circumstances, partly due to the management by the previous administration, and we have some difficult decisions to take."
He added: "We were basing our figures taken at the time [when charges were previously going to be introduced].
"Naturally, there is seasonal fluctuation and it depends on the weather.
"The only facts on the table are that the last recorded number of cars [visiting coastal sites] was over 400,000, and we know that the charge will be £2, so if you add these two together you get a figure close to £1 million."
The council leader claimed that residents had been consulted on the policy during the last SNP/Lib Dem administration, and "only a third of those who responded at the time were opposed to car parking charges"
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Aug 2, 10:42
As a local resident, I would be happy to buy an annual 'season ticket' for the beaches if it were reasonably priced, but if the £2 charge is for everyone every day then I will just go elsewhere. I think that residents of Dirleton, for example, are really going to suffer if the charge is brought in at Yellowcraigs, as people (not me!) will just park in the village. I can't see why season tickets are 'discriminatory' if they're available to everyone - obviously the main purchasers would be local residents, but if a visitor wanted to buy one, why not?
Recommend? Yes 4 No 4
Aug 2, 12:16
The main people who object are dog walkers who use the beaches as a toilet. Take a walk around John Muir Country Park and tread very carefully. I would be happy to pay a charge if it meant I could look at the scenery rather than the ground.
Recommend? Yes 3 No 6
Aug 2, 13:22
To raise £1,000,000 would mean 500,000 cars need to visit the car parks each year, which is 1,370 each day (assuming that it costs £0 to implement and run the scheme).
If a protest against the charges can only get 100 people to the beaches in the middle of summer, how do they propose to get more than 1,000 cars a day to the beaches on wet October days?
Steve - It's unlikely that being charged £2 is likely to cause somebody to pick up after their dog. In fact, it's more likely to be "I've paid my £2, so I've paid for someone else to pick this up"
Recommend? Yes 9 No 1
Aug 2, 22:04
Aug 2, 23:47
As was eloquently pointed out in a recent article in the Scotsman, this is a stupid tax.
We tax alcohol to dissuade over consumption, to promote health.
We tax cigarettes to dissuade new smokers, to promote health.
Why would we introduce a tax on walkers, surfers and people choosing to be active on our beaches? Why would we tax those choosing to be healthy?... it's a stupid tax when you view it from a point of principle.
.... and this is before the fanatsy economics of it are picked apart, and the unintended consequences of lost business, tourism and increased local congestion are considered.
No matter which way you look at it, it is a stupid tax.
Recommend? Yes 10 No 0
Aug 3, 16:14
Dr Christmas Jones
Aug 3, 16:56