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Warning of plans to charge people to park at popular County Durham coastal areas

Labour members argue the proposals for coastal locations could threaten the future growth of places like Seaham and drive motorists to park on already congested residential streets.

They also claim it will severely affect businesses that rely on current visitor numbers.

However, the authority has said the charges will provide an income stream and improve local air quality.

The Northern Echo: People will have to pay at the Crimdon Dene car park under the plans People will have to pay at the Crimdon Dene car park under the plans (Image: Google)

Dawdon Division’s Councillor Kevin Shaw believes two-and-a-half years of ‘fiscal incompetence’ by the current Tory, Lib Dem and Independent coalition has created a huge budget deficit means the authority must reach into the pockets of visitors and residents as they attempt to claw their way out of this financial black hole.

If agreed, the parking revenue would be factored into the medium-term financial plan, and Labour fears it would make it almost impossible to reverse in the future as cuts to other services would be required to make up the shortfall.

 Cllr Shaw said: “We have worked too hard for too long to build Seaham’s reputation as a visitor destination and regenerate our community to let this chaotic coalition destroy it all with parking charges.

 “This reckless move would cull visitor numbers, force drivers onto residential streets causing nuisance to residents and massively impact on local businesses that depend on current visitor levels.

“This council is looking to the people of County Durham to pay up for the coalition’s bungling of the budget and 13 years of Tory Government austerity, but we say the people have already paid enough – we will fight these proposed parking charges with everything we’ve got.”

County Durham Labour has launched a petition against the move to introduce paid for parking in the town, describing the response as ‘overwhelming’ with businesses contacted now displaying the petition form in their premises.

Seaham Town Councillor June Watson is the Labour candidate for the upcoming county council by-election called after the death of Cllr Leanne Kennedy.

She said: “Whether it’s through council tax hikes or parking charges, this coalition expects the people of County Durham to pick up the tab for its own financial mismanagement. Well, this has to stop now.

“Parking charges will naturally deter visitors from this vibrant town or see resident bays and supermarket car parks overrun with problem parking – there are already issues with parking in the town and this will only exacerbate it further.

“And what about the impact on shops and businesses? Has the coalition even considered this? Does it care?

“As we enter the beginning of the Dawdon by-election, residents must understand that a vote for anyone other than Labour will get you a Tory or Tory enabler.”

Durham County Council is consulting on proposals to introduce a £3 per day or £1 per hour parking charge at: Crimdon Dene Coastal Car Park, Seaham Hall (Beach), Vane Tempest Terrace Green (North Terrace), Seaham Marina, Dock Top, Noses Point and B1287 North Road / East Shore Drive, Seaham.

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The plans has already faced criticism from Easington MP Grahame Morris.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, on behalf of the Joint Administration of Durham County Council, hit back and accused County Durham Labour of ‘deliberately misrepresenting a situation and misinforming residents to score political points’.

She said: “The reality is that introducing reasonable parking charges will support and sustain the commercial viability of town centres such as Seaham.

“An increase to the turnover of spaces will improve parking availability through the day, boosting the number of people who visit and spend money with local businesses.

Cllr Scott said County Durham has the cheapest parking of all of the local authorities in the North East, even with the proposed charges.

She said: “Towns that have seen the most success like Seaham have benefited because of the huge county council investment which now draws people to the coast.

“To sustain and build on that success, our focus needs to remain on those regeneration efforts and revenue from parking helps the council to fund this vital work.

“What we are proposing would also address some of the issues that residents in coastal communities raise with us, such as that of badly parked vehicles obstructing access.

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Cllr Scott said the plans would help lower emissions and improve local air quality ‘by reducing the need for drivers to circulate around car parks multiple times until they find a space, or queue for one to become vacant’.

She added: “Charges would give the county council an important income stream, helping to fund the management and maintenance of parking facilities.

“And in turn, this would benefit those who use public transport, or walk or cycle, as any surplus income generated from parking would be ring-fenced for transport measures, as part of a broader approach to developing a sustainable economy on many levels.

“While Labour-run councils up and down the country are going bust and closing front-line services, Durham County Council remains in a strong financial position.

“The introduction of modest parking charges is the financially responsible thing to do at a time of intense pressure on public sector finances.”



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