Concerned residents have launched a petition to try to halt the introduction of charges in car parks on the seafront at Blyth.
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 earlier this 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.
A report to councillors explained that ‘the impact of charges on local residents and short-stay visitors will be mitigated by first-hour-free provision for those car parks that have the greatest level of regular short-stay use by local residents for daily recreation/dog walking, etc’.
And Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for local services, said: “Car-parking charges are never popular, but it’s a fair and appropriate way to fund these very exciting developments.”
However, a growing number of people in Blyth do not feel the same way.
Residents of the South Beach and South Shore areas of the town are concerned that the introduction of charges will have a major impact on them as motorists unwilling to pay may choose to park on their streets.
An online version of a petition to protest against the proposed charges – https://tinyurl.com/ycsw8sfx – has already attracted more than 900 signatures, while paper copies are being circulated as well.
Coun Eileen Cartie, who represents the town’s Wensleydale ward, said she has had lots of residents contact her about this issue, even those from other wards, so ‘they must feel really strongly about it’.
“I can’t believe what they (the council administration) are doing,” she added. “I was only a child the last time they tried to impose parking charges in Blyth more than 40 years ago.
“They are just going to spoil it when it’s becoming a really good tourist attraction. I’m proud of what we have done in Blyth with the beach becoming such a visitor attraction.
“It’s wrong because people need to have days out with their families. That’s why parks were built in the Victorian era and beaches made available – for health and wellbeing.”
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “In Blyth, a parking study will be carried out to help inform the economic regeneration of the town, while works to improve the surfacing of the Ranch car park is to be undertaken early next year. Plans to improve the Mermaid play area are also being considered.
“To help fund these improvements, address other revenue budget pressures and maintain key front-line services, we are consulting on proposals to reintroduce charges at a number of non-town-centre, council-owned car parks, including coastal car parks.
“We do not intend to introduce parking charges at town-centre car parks which will remain free of charge to support the local economy.
“As elsewhere, the first hour would remain free so that those local residents who visit the site regularly for short walks are not affected, with only those staying for longer being expected to pay.
“We are still consulting on these plans and would welcome all views so they can be carefully considered before any final decision is made, anyone wishing to provide feedback can do so via email to email@example.com”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service