The council’s leadership has said it is taking on board all views as proposals to introduce seafront parking charges in Blyth continue to cause concern.
As previously reported, to help fund a £10million investment in parking improvements across Northumberland, the county council is proposing introducing or increasing charges in a number of coastal car parks.
The proposed charges, which are currently out for consultation but were backed by the council’s cabinet last month, would apply in three car parks in Blyth – Beachway, Mermaid and the Ranch.
The first hour would still be free, but up to three hours’ parking would cost £1.50 and all day would be £3.
Concerned residents have launched a petition – https://tinyurl.com/ycsw8sfx – against the introduction of charges, which now has more than 1,600 signatures, while the proposals came in for more criticism at this week’s meeting of the council’s communities and place committee.
Blyth ward members, Couns Eileen Cartie and Jeff Reid, both raised a number of issues, but Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for local services, emphasised that the council is listening to all of the feedback.
“This is a set of proposals out for consultation and consultation means just that,” he said. “It’s not, this is what’s going to happen, full stop.”
He added that the charges are so the council can make improvements and create new spaces, which in Blyth means work to improve the surfacing of the Ranch car park, to be undertaken early next year, while investment of around £60,000 for the Mermaid play area is also being considered.
“This is not money that’s going to go flooding into buying parking spaces in Hexham,” Coun Sanderson said.
But Coun Cartie said: “Why should residents have to pay to go to the beach when it’s been free for years? It’s not all about taking money off people, it’s about them enjoying their community facilities. I’m only saying what my constituents are saying to me.”
Coun Liz Dunn, who represents the Lynemouth ward and later raised concerns about similar charging proposals at Cresswell, said: “I have to agree with Eileen. I think it’s biased towards tourists and will put off our own people from going there.”
Coun Sanderson responded: “What we are trying to do is raise income to make some improvements in Blyth. It’s not taxing people for the sake of it.
“It’s introducing a fair charge for tourists and for local people who want to stay for more than an hour. Even after that, it’s much less than North or South Tyneside where it’s £1.20 an hour.”
Coun Reid was more measured in his criticism, saying: “I have faith enough in the administration that you are prepared to listen, that it’s not a done deal.
“The problem is there’s unrestricted parking nearby. You just need to think about the impact outside the direct area where you want to charge, because people’s resistance to paying something when there’s an alternative is actually quite high.”
Suggestions for amendments to the proposals included seasonal charges rather than all year round, allowing two hours of free parking or reducing the daily rate to £1.50.
Coun Rupert Gibson said: “It’s worth remembering that it’s not just the council charging for parking, it’s people such as English Heritage, National Trust and even the National Park.”
The consultation on the proposals is running until January and anyone wishing to provide feedback can do so via email to email@example.com