CONCERNS have been raised in North Berwick after East Lothian Council published its proposals to radically change parking restrictions in the town.

The proposals – the biggest shake-up of parking provision in North Berwick for decades – would, says the council, greatly improve “parking management” and raise much-needed income for the local authority.

At its crux are plans to introduce four Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ) where on-street parking charges – varying from 50p to £1 per 30-minute period – would be introduced and residents in designated streets would be charged £40 for parking permits.

The council has now opened the proposals to a consultation period that ends on December 13 and will allow residents and businesses to share their views, but local groups have already spoken out about the plans.

READ MORE: Major clampdown on free town centre parking

Susan Oliver, co-chair of North Berwick Business Association, stressed how much damage the proposals could cause for local business and residents – only heightened by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis – while endangering a thriving High Street.

She said: “East Lothian Council’s proposed plans for new parking restrictions and paid parking zones in North Berwick could not come at a worse time for business owners.

“The introduction of paid parking zones and resident permits would negatively impact many businesses and residents, particularly with the current cost-of-living crisis.

“The proposed 30-minute restriction on free parking would only discourage people from visiting High Street and would barely allow sufficient time to visit the Post Office, collect a prescription or pop into a shop.

“In addition, the introduction of multiple parking zones at different charges will only confuse and deter both residents and visitors.

“Whilst we understand the need to address the parking issues within North Berwick, this does not address the fundamental issue of a lack of parking for seasonal visitors.

“We appreciate the council is under considerable financial pressure, but the importance of a thriving High Street to the economy and community should not be underestimated.

“Experience has shown that the introduction of parking charges has a detrimental impact on the small independent businesses that make our High Street special.

“North Berwick Business Association were disappointed not to be consulted on the proposed changes, after spending considerable time participating in a separate traffic consultation earlier this year.

“We are currently gathering the views of our members and hope to discuss the proposed plans with the council directly.”

'Severe and negative impact'

Judy Lockhart-Hunter, chair of North Berwick Community Council, said the issue would be discussed in full at the group’s next meeting but members already had grave concerns.

She said: “Quite clearly, North Berwick has a shortage of parking supply, particularly in the summer; either we accept these difficulties or something has to change.

“The proposed parking charges don’t appear to be excessive, but would they be enough to fund the associated admin costs, meters and wardens – if not, will charges be ramped up in a few years’ time to cover these?

“NBCC raised concerns with East Lothian Council regarding the complete removal of parking to the east end of High Street.

“Business owners fear that this will have a severe and negative impact on them.

“Will people really continue to shop in this area if they need to lug their goods to the nearest car park – particularly in the depth of winter when it’s howling a gale and raining?

“Removing parking from an entire section of the street will exclude those with mobility issues who are not entitled to a blue badge. North Berwick has an ageing population and quite a number could fall into this category.

“Additionally, NBCC commented to East Lothian Council that the proposals state changes to parking and the implementation of charges would apply all year.

“The demand for parking in the town is far lower in the winter than it is in the summer; it seems unreasonable that this is not being taken into consideration.”

'Winter charging unneccesary'

Olwyn Owen, chair of North Berwick Environment and Heritage Trust, supported some of the proposals but stressed the winter restrictions would be “unnecessary”.

She said: “The trust welcomes any attempt to address the parking situation in North Berwick, which has been a bone of contention for decades, but we are surprised that the proposals do not seem to recognise the seasonality of the problem.

“In the summer months, parking is a major issue, but we believe it is far less of a problem in the winter.

“Winter charging for parking may well be unnecessary and might deter some local High Street shoppers.

“We welcome the introduction of more resident permits, but our initial view is that they should only be available to people who live here full-time, not holiday let and second home owners.

“We think town centre residents may also be concerned about the proposals to permit (and charge for) overnight parking by campervans in some of the busy town centre streets and along the seafront, which could encourage more campervans into the town, leading to more congestion and pollution.”

Craig Hoy, South Scotland MSP, questioned whether it was the right time to see these proposals introduced.

He said: “At this time, with high streets facing lower footfall and the cost-of-living crisis, I am far from convinced that now is the right time to introduce car parking charges.

“It is vital that residents and businesses share their views with East Lothian Council and I would encourage them to respond to the consultation.”

'Finally see some movement'

Paul McLennan, East Lothian MSP, was more positive on the proposals.

He said: “It’s great to finally see some movement on the issue of parking in North Berwick.

“In 2007, when I was the environment spokesperson leader of the council, we set aside £600,000 for improvements in parking in North Berwick – 15 years later, we have a live consultation which I hope will see the improvements locals have long asked for.

“Any changes that come as a result of the consultation must be made alongside improved active travel opportunities for walking and cycling, and suitable public transport options – both by rail and by bus – to compensate for the cost of parking.

“I would encourage all North Berwick residents to complete the consultation to make sure their views are heard. If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact my office.”

Martin Whitfield South Scotland MSP, added: “Parking is a perennial problem in North Berwick, so I fully understand the desire to explore new measures to try and help improve parking management and alleviate the difficulties often experienced by residents and visitors.

“There are also important economic and environmental dimensions to the proposals that I think most people will broadly welcome.

“However, changes to parking arrangements rarely satisfy everyone, so it’s really important people have their say.

“The council has been clear that no final decisions have been made and I would encourage as many local residents as possible to respond to the consultation so that their views are clearly communicated.”

When the proposals were announed last week, Councillor Norman Hampshire, council leader, said: “With East Lothian having a growing population and being a popular visitor destination, we need to achieve a balanced and sustainable approach which meets parking needs, whilst ensuring our town centres remain vibrant and attractive places in which to live, work and visit.

“As well as encouraging greater use of public transport and promoting active travel such as walking and cycling to address the climate emergency, we need to look at what steps can be taken to manage the parking spaces which are available in our town centres to meet needs more effectively.

“The consultation proposes measures to improve the turnover and, in turn, availability of parking spaces through charging in some areas, introduces permits for households in four of the busiest areas of the town, and maintains provision for motorists with disabilities.”