FEARS have been raised that businesses could close if parking charges are introduced in Haddington town centre.

A multi-stage consultation on parking in town centres across East Lothian is under way and will continue into 2023.

Each town will be considered separately but the potential of parking charges has already been mooted in North Berwick, which is the first town to undertake the public consultation.

The possibility of a similar scheme in Haddington was discussed at the town’s community council meeting where florist Erica Muirhead, who has run Erica’s on the town’s High Street for almost 45 years, warned of the impact parking charges could have in the town.

READ MORE: Businesses' concerns over plans to charge for parking in North Berwick

She said: “I think it would be very detrimental to our town to start charging for parking.

“The [edge of town] retail park is taking quite an amount of business away from the town centre.

“I don’t know of a business that has not had a [trading] decrease in the town centre; quite significantly in some cases.

“There is lots of free parking up at Gateside [where Haddington Retail Park has been built].

“I’m very against parking charges.

“You can go to the Borders towns and there is lots of free parking down there.

“It is very easy to park and wander round the towns and that is a huge draw.”

Many businesses have been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and now face the possibility of another challenging winter due to the cost-of-living crisis.

East Lothian Courier: Erica Muirhead celebrated 40 years of Erica's on Haddington High Street.Erica Muirhead celebrated 40 years of Erica's on Haddington High Street.

Mrs Muirhead feared that “some businesses will fall” if charges are introduced and there is a drop in footfall.

One suggestion put forward was a park and ride to the west of the town.

It was hoped that would allow people to get a bus into the town centre where they could shop without the need to park and be charged.

She said: “There should be a bus service to bring people down to the town.

“To think the Gateside retail park is going to engage with local businesses – that’s not going to happen.

“They want business there and money spent with them.

“They are huge multi-national businesses.

“It is a hard situation but if they are spending up there, there’s no spend for the town centre.”

Fellow community councillor Jim Graham had similar concerns.

East Lothian Courier: Haddington Retail ParkHaddington Retail Park

Mr Graham runs Graham the Jeweller, on High Street, alongside wife Moira and said: “Any charge like that could affect the town centre, especially with the retail park where you get free car parking.

“There are about 350 spaces up there and people find it easy to roll up there and park.

“They do their shopping and go away and they don’t go to the town centre as much.”

In 2019, discussions took place about the possibility of a car park being built off Whittingehame Drive, beside the town’s skate park.

As many as 240 spaces could have been created but the East Lothian Council proposals were scrapped in the face of fierce opposition from members of the public.

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council confirmed the consultation in Haddington would not take place until the New Year.

She said: “East Lothian is one of the fastest growing areas in Scotland and so the council has a responsibility to review and assess how a growing population impacts on local communities.

“The parking consultations provide an opportunity for local residents, businesses and visitors to provide their views on a range of proposals and options to improve access and safety within the main town centres.

“The community councils have an invaluable role in advising and encouraging people to have their say and they will be advised in advance when their town consultation is due to start.”

A mile-and-a-half west of the town centre, Haddington Retail Park’s tenants include Aldi, Home Bargains, Food Warehouse, Costa Coffee, Starbucks coffee and also a Shell petrol station.