EAST Lothian Council’s reasoning for going back to the drawing board regarding planned parking charges in North Berwick has been branded “insulting”.

The proposals were first put out to public consultation under a Traffic Regulation Order by East Lothian Council.

However, a report to councillors next week will ask for permission to withdraw the order and start again, after officers attributed the high number of objections to a "misinterpretation of the key themes" by the public.

It says that the council received 659 responses to the traffic order, which would allow the introduction of parking restrictions, permit zones and on-street and off-street charges.

A sample of 140 pieces of written correspondence produced 443 individual points of objection and concern covering 73 different themes.

Officers highlighted the amount of documents made available as part of the order as causing a problem, saying: “The order, as published, included 43 supporting documents.

"The volume of information was large and technically challenging, which drew negative feedback from the public, with some expressing the view that the information was incomprehensible.”

READ MOREParking charge plans for North Berwick to be sent back to the drawing board

However, Kenny Miller, chair of North Berwick Community Council, said that the volume of information was not the reason for the majority of objections.

He said: “We welcome the recommendation to withdraw the parking proposals for North Berwick, but find the reasons given insulting to the people of North Berwick.

“To suggest that the proposals had been misinterpreted is an extraordinary statement.

"I don't believe that to be the case, but if proposals have been misinterpreted that says a lot more about the manner in which they were presented by East Lothian Council than about the people's response.

“It should be noted that this withdrawal is to allow East Lothian Council to come forward with revised proposals for North Berwick, so this has not gone away.

“It is worrying that this recommendation comes in the same paper that asks for a further half a million pounds for surveys in the other towns in which these schemes are to be introduced. When the funding of East Lothian Council is in the precarious state that we are being told it is, I have to question whether this is wise spending of public money.

“There is a growing body of evidence of examples where similar schemes in other areas have had a harmful impact on retail. There is no guarantee that this will not be the case in North Berwick or any other East Lothian town.

“I would urge the councillors to think very carefully before voting on this paper as presented.”

'Not fit for purpose'

Susan Oliver, co-chair of North Berwick Business Association, added: "After over 10 years of various expensive traffic management consultations, East Lothian Council have yet again produced a report that was not fit for purpose and have had to withdraw their proposals.

"They have stated that the town did not understand what they were trying to achieve. The traffic management proposal failed exactly because the town did understand and challenged the council's report.

"However, if there was an issue with the understanding of the scheme, that is down to the manner in which it was presented by East Lothian Council, and reflects badly on them rather than North Berwick.

"East Lothian Council is crippled with overspending, yet are determined to proceed by commissioning another expensive consultation for limited achievable revenue."

Craig Hoy, South Scotland MSP (Conservative), called on the council to drop the plans all together.

He said: "East Lothian Council should have read the mood of North Berwick residents and scrapped these plans long before now.

"Campaigners have warned that these plans would do real damage to the High Street and inconvenience those living in and around the town centre.

"Scarce council resources have been wasted on the consultations and proposals, and it is very frustrating that having set aside the concerns of the community initially, the council is now going back to the drawing board.

"I have consistently stood with the residents of North Berwick in opposing these plans and now call on the council to drop these unpopular parking charges altogether."

'Accelerate delivery'

In their report to councillors, planning officers say that the experience from North Berwick will help speed up planned orders for other towns in the county, which could be introduced over the next two years.

They say: “Withdrawing the current order and working to redesign alternative orders would allow officers to incorporate additional restrictions sought by objectors; to simplify the restrictions and the content, with a distinction drawn between on and off-street parking; and to address motorhome parking provision.

“The benefit of publishing new orders allows us to introduce reasonable modifications but also design a template from the lessons learnt after the North Berwick consultation and objection process.

“This can then be used to accelerate delivery of town centre parking schemes across East Lothian.

"It is anticipated the process can be reduced to 27 months to finalise all necessary orders, subject to anticipated public hearing process.”

Councillors will be asked to allow officers to withdraw the original order at a meeting on Tuesday.