A COMPLETE revamp of Haddington town centre parking provision could take place, with potentially dozens of spaces removed from High Street and Market Street.

The early-stage proposals, outlined in documents seen by the Courier, have been met with concern by a number of traders.

The plans suggest the removal of up to 40 car parking spaces from the town centre – and a car park, of more than 200 spaces, instead created on Whittingehame Drive.

The new ‘edge of centre’ car park, dubbed a park and stride or a park and ride, could then see people walking or bussed from Whittingehame Drive back into the town centre.

And the long stay car park at the town’s Tesco store, which is used by many people working in the town centre, could also become a short stay car park.

East Lothian Council has confirmed it is “exploring additional options for sustainable travel improvements in and around Haddington town centre”.

A meeting about the plans is being arranged later this month by the Haddington Business Community Partnership (HBCP).

Joanna Gibson, the group’s chairwoman, said they would form a group opinion following the meeting but, speaking personally, she said: “The problem we have as retailers is that if it’s not accessible by car then we will lose out on customers.

“Over 50 per cent of our customers live outwith Haddington in the surrounding towns and villages, many of which don’t have great public transport links.

“People have busy lives and want things done quickly and conveniently. Why do you think online shopping is so successful? My customers aren’t going to cycle to shop in Gibson’s – some are not able and most just simply don’t have the time.

“I don’t think businesses could sustain the level of disruption that a project like this would cause.

She added: “Of course I want Haddington to be the best it can be, there is so much that can be done that wouldn’t cost as much as this project.”

She called for further public consultation to be carried out – a feeling that was echoed by Jim Graham, of Graham the Jewellers.

The businessman, who is also a member of the town’s community council, was “extremely concerned” by the proposals.

He said: “People come into Haddington to do shopping, banking, get a haircut, paper, etc. They are not going to do ‘a park and stride’.

“The people in the new houses, are they going to come through the town, park at Whittingehame Drive and then get a bus or walk back into the town? I don’t think so.”

Pat Lemmon, manager of the town’s Oxfam store and also a member of Haddington and District Community Council, added: “If people donating to our shop are unable to drop off their donations at the shop, the number of donations we receive will drop significantly.

“A drop in donations means a drop in income for all the work Oxfam is currently involved in.

“Every penny is needed in the fight against poverty.”

She added: “Are members of our community being considered here and are they fully aware of all the proposed changes?”

Discussions about traffic flow and parking in Haddington town centre have been ongoing for a number of years.

For the last seven years, East Lothian Council has been working with the local community to deliver their ‘Vision for Haddington town centre’. The plans include improving the attractiveness and accessibility of the town centre in support of the community and local businesses.

A spokesman for the local authority said: “In addition to our developing proposals to improve pedestrian and cycle access, we are also currently exploring additional options for sustainable travel improvements in and around Haddington town centre.

“Our priorities are to protect and enhance the local environment while supporting the local economy, including town centre retailers and other businesses.

“It was announced in the summer that the council had secured funding from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Fund.

“With this support, we are exploring proposals for long-stay parking facilities at Whittingehame Drive, to create additional ‘edge of centre’ sustainable transport options, including long stay parking for ‘park and ride’ and ‘park and stride’, electric vehicle fast chargers, cycle parking, and cycle hire.

“This has the potential to free-up parking spaces in the town centre for short-stay use, making it easier for people to access local businesses, essential services, and tourist attractions during the day.

“In doing so, we are aiming to enhance parking provision in such a way that not only is the number of available spaces in Haddington increased beyond current levels, but that better use is made of each space.”

Currently, Haddington town centre is home to almost 550 spaces spread between the long stay car park at Tesco, on-street parking at Court Street, Market Street, Hardgate and High Street, and the car park at East Lothian Council’s headquarters, John Muir House.

However, the John Muir House car park, which has 250 spaces, is not open to the public between 8am and 5pm on weekdays.

The council spokesman stressed there was no timescale for the work or final details on how many spaces would be created under the latest proposals.