A BID to scrap plans to introduce parking charges in East Lothian’s town centres has been overwhelmingly rejected.

A consultation in North Berwick – which is the first town to see a Traffic Order drawn up to introduce the charges, as well as permit zones – drew hundreds of objections and saw a petition with more than 4,000 signatures produced.

At a meeting of East Lothian Council on Tuesday, the Conservative Group put forward a motion calling for the entire scheme to be  dropped and the £500,000 set aside for it to be reallocated.

However, their call was dismissed by the Labour administration, SNP opposition and the council’s sole Scottish Greens councillor, who all insisted that town centre parking needed to change.

A report from council officers had revealed that the North Berwick Traffic Order received 659 responses with dozens of different themes, ranging from the impact on High Street to one in 10 objectors saying that there were no parking problems, as well as concerns that the plans would encourage motorhome parking.

READ MORENorth Berwick parking charges order set to be withdrawn

Officers said that the amount of documents made available as part of the order had also caused a problem, saying that 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”.

They asked councillors to let them withdraw the order and draw up a new one, adding that lessons learned from the first consultation would help speed up the process when it came to consultations in other towns.

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However, Conservative councillor Jeremy Findlay, a North Berwick Coastal ward member, tabled a motion instead calling for elected members to note the high level of objections and drop plans to proceed with parking charges in any town in the county.

And he said that the decision by officers to reject a petition signed by thousands as "incompetent" was seen by people in the town as "ignoring them".

Mr Findlay told the meeting: “The overwhelming opinion in North Berwick is that no new Traffic Order should be promoted.

“To proceed with a new order is a waste of officers’ time and money.

"It has cost at least £136,000 so far and that is before it takes into account all of the officers’ time spent on this ill-fated project.”

'Head in the sand'

Mr Findlay pointed out that North Berwick Business Association was "wholly opposed" to parking charges, believing they would be damaging to members, and he added: “Who are we to argue with them?”

He was backed by fellow Conservative councillor Donna Collins, who said that she believed the money involved in the scheme could be better spent.

However, Councillor Norman Hampshire (Labour), council leader, accused his fellow councillors of "playing politics again".

He said: “They are acting like the ostrich with its head in the sand.

"Towns in East Lothian have all had to deliver significant growth and the number of people trying to access our town centres has grown greatly.

“People are using their cars to get in there and the situation is serious in some town centres.”

The council voted by 16 votes to three to allow a new Traffic Order and reject the amendment.