New bid to axe beach car park ‘tax’ in East Lothian

THORNTONLOCH BEACH AT TORNESS. -26/4/98-
THORNTONLOCH BEACH AT TORNESS. -26/4/98-

An irate local councillor is calling for the public’s support to have East Lothian’s new coastal car parking charges abolished.

Councillor Stuart Currie, the SNP group leader at East Lothian Council, has started an online petition to scrap the fees being introduced at 13 car parks from this summer.

He has dubbed the charges “a tourism tax”, one which could dissuade visitors from coming to East Lothian, thus damaging the county’s flourishing tourism trade.

But the move has been slammed by Councillor Norman Hampshire (Lab), who described Councillor Currie actions as “cynical and misleading”.

Councillor Currie launched his petition at www.change.org on Friday and, at the time of going to press, more than 1,000 people had added their names to it.

In the petition statement, he says: “They (car parking charges) will have a negative impact on tourism in the county, which provides 20 per cent of jobs and they will have an impact on local residents who already pay council tax to use the coastal

car parks.

“In the run up to the 2017 council elections, it is important you make your view known.”

The car parks affected are Longniddry Bents (No 1, No 2 and No 3), Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve, Gullane Bents, Yellowcraig, John Muir Country Park (Tyninghame Links, Linkfield and Shore Road), Skateraw, Whitesands, Barns Ness and Thorntonloch. Yellowcraig and Gullane Bents are now operational, with others being rolled out in the coming weeks.

Councillor Currie said: “These charge are a disgrace and being brought in without any democratic mandate.

“The only party in 2012 who even mentioned charges was the SNP – and we made it clear we would never, ever introduce them. In the past, over 1000 people signed the petition to stop the charges, but they were just ignored by Labour and Tory councillors. It is now time to take our fight outwith the Council Chamber, which is why the petition is so important as part of the SNP campaign. The SNP pledge is direct and simple: we will abolish parking charges as the first act of a future SNP council.”

Councillor Norman Hampshire (Lab), East Lothian Council’s environment spokesperson, rounded on the SNP group leader.

He said: “Councillor Currie’s actions are both cynical and misleading. Far from being without any ‘democratic mandate’, the introduction of coastal car parking was brought in following a period of public consultation, has been included within the administration’s budget plans since 2012 and has been an item open to debate at council meetings.

“The monies raised through the charges will be ring fenced for use for coastal improvements.

“Local authorities are having to seek alternative means of securing public services, thanks to the actions of the SNP at Holyrood reducing council income options.”