Tourism levy call is part of a wider issue

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

There was acknowledgement of the pressures placed on small communities by tourism and the visitor economy as a petition was presented to county councillors this week.

The petition, launched by Craster Parish Council, calls for the creation of a ring-fenced tourism fund through a car-parking levy.

This measure 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.

It was endorsed at the county council’s north area committee meeting on Monday, but officers ruled that the petition could not be accepted as it has a county-wide strategic impact and therefore it will go before the council’s petitions committee after the May elections.

At the meeting, Coun Bryn Owen, chairman of Craster Parish Council, said: “This is new money, from visitors, and does not impact on the county-council budget.

“It allows for improvements for tourists to be made based on local knowledge and local needs. It is a move to enhance tourism in line with county-council policy.”

Citing projects she has helped bring to fruition in Craster, Coun Kate Cairns, ward member for the area, who had already said she was happy to take forward the petition, said: “I do understand the problems of small parishes with large numbers of visitors.”

Coun John Woodman, for the Bamburgh ward, agreed that this is part of a wider issue, adding: “We have to find a way of providing more finance for visitor infrastructure and car parking is part of that.”

Committee chairman, Coun Steven Bridgett, praised the proactive approach and also suggested that Craster Parish Council could try buying the car park from the county council and ‘being in control of its own destiny’.

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 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.