Levy to parking charges to cover cost of tourism

Parking in Quarry Car Park, Craster
Parking in Quarry Car Park, Craster

A parish council on the north Northumberland coast is calling on the county council to create a ring-fenced tourism fund by adding a levy to car-parking charges.

In a move which will likely interest other coastal parishes, Craster Parish Council will be presenting a petition to the north area committee meeting this month which aims to tackle the gap between a small precept due to a dwindling number of residents and expenditure to provide facilities for a growing number of tourists.

Bryn Owen, chairman of Craster Parish Council, said: “All we are asking for is a fair deal. The tourists have put homes in the village out of the reach of young families, our shop has become a café and our pub an upmarket restaurant.

“We accept this is good for the county, but these businesses pay business rates from which the parish gets nothing while those who work in these businesses cannot afford to live in the village.

“Most holiday lets pay nothing because as small businesses they get 100 per cent rate relief. From April 1, no holiday let will pay a penny as all fall below the £12,000 rateable value cut-off.

“It makes our finances very difficult. A dwindling number of residents are required to provide facilities for a growing number of tourists, about to be boosted by the new coastal path.

“We believe the solution is simple and that by introducing a levy on the car park for local tourism, we would be getting the visitors to pay towards what we provide.

“We would like to improve the visitor experience as we know many tourists come to Craster and are totally unaware of all that is here. A classic example of this is the Second World War radar station just 100 yards from the main tourist route which is rarely visited and in a sad state of repair.

“This is far more significant to the history of this country than the iconic Dunstanburgh Castle, and with the income from car parking, we could mount a project to seek grants to restore it. Its location on the coast would make it an ideal night skies location, extending the tourist season.

“The levy would not affect the county’s finances as it would be new money and it may even enable us to explore with holiday-home owners the feasibility of providing a subsidy to bring back some of the old council houses into the social-housing sector.

“It’s a win-win approach and I envisage a situation where the visitors pay the levy and download a free Craster Visitor app which improves the quality of their time in the parish.

The petition is on the county council website – www.northumberland.gov.uk – and the closing date is Monday, March 13, the day on which the petition will be presented.

What exactly is being proposed?

Craster was one of a small number of parishes which elected to keep charges when the county council allowed local decisions on free parking. Currently, it costs from 50p for an hour up to £2 all day.

The parish council’s proposal is to add 50p to the cost of a short-stay ticket and £1 to an all-day ticket, making the costs £1 for one hour, £1.50 for two hours, £2 for three hours and £3 all day. Of this extra cash, 10 per cent would go to the county council, 20 per cent to the ward councillor and 70 per cent to the parish council.