THE public will be asked to take part in a consultation on the possible introduction of parking charges in town centres after a draft policy was drawn up by council officials.

The Parking Management Strategy, which was rejected by councillors at a meeting last year, has now been approved to be put out to public consultation after changes were made to some of the proposals.

Among the alterations was the decision to drop proposals to charge £40 a year for a residents’ parking permit and amendments to proposals to review on-street and off-street parking charges and coastal car parks charges to allow for more debate.

A meeting of East Lothian Council at Haddington Town House on Tuesday heard officials planned to open the proposals to consultation over a six-week period, starting at the end of March. But concerns were raised about ensuring people had the chance to join in the consultation, with planned workshops to be held in the county’s six “main towns and villages” by officials.

Councillor Jeremy Findlay (Con) raised concerns about the ability of people living in smaller villages and rural communities to attend workshops or even access the consultation online if they had a poor broadband internet connection.

And Councillor Jane Henderson (Con) cautioned against officials giving the public the idea they could come up with a “shopping list” of things they wanted, pointing out parking was heavily regulated.

At a meeting of the council last December, the Conservative and SNP Groups opposed the parking management strategy going out to public consultation after pointing out that both their election manifestos opposed charging for parking.

But on Tuesday, Councillor Brian Small (Con), leader of the opposition, said that he was now more comfortable with the proposals being put out to the public, adding: “I am confident that after going out to public consultation it will come back in front of this chamber for any decision.”

But Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, said his group remained opposed to “a consultation on something we have opposed in our manifesto”.

Councillor Fiona O’ Donnell (Lab) accused the SNP Group of “failing to understand the difference between a consultation and a policy”.

She said: “I am glad this is going out for public views. I think there could not be a more important subject to discuss which touches each and every one of our lives.

“We should give people an opportunity to engage with us .”

Councillor Sue Kempson (Con) said that concern about parking charges was raised at every meeting she attended in her ward of Dunbar and East Linton.

The strategy is part of the council’s Local Transport Strategy, which will go out to public consultation and also looks at road safety, active travel and management of roads.

During the meeting, council officials revealed they were also discussing the possibility of giving parking attendants the power to issue fines to people who sat with their car engines idling in areas where air pollution was a concern.

A spokesperson said: “We are in discussions with the parking attendants’ provider to see if this is something the attendants could add to their duties.”