TRADERS have again vented their fury at proposed car parking charges for Whitley Bay town centre, saying it will destroy the town.
Businessowners fear the introduction of 1p a minute charges to Park View will result in shoppers deciding to take their money to out-of-town shopping centres where there is free parking.
One set of proposals drawn up by North Tyneside Council were withdrawn at a planning committee earlier this year but officers are currently working on a new set of plans which they hope will get unanimous backing.
Council chiefs are pushing for charged parking in the town centre as they feel it will make it easier and more efficient for parking wardens to check if a car has parked outside its time limit.
But traders voiced their frustration at Coun Frank Lott, cabinet member for economic development, transport and highways, who attended the
Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade meeting on Tuesday.
Coun Lott said he was putting the finishing touches to parking proposals, which he hoped could be implemented with the earmarked cash spent by the end of the financial year.
"I would prefer not to have free car parking, I would prefer to have 1p a minute or other parking charged offers," he said.
"We'll be coming forward with proposals I hope are acceptable so we can get the scheme into place for your own benefit and the benefit of residents.
"We need to have a turnover of parking spaces."
Coun Lott added that the council was spending around 690,000 on car parking infrastructure and looking to bring in 1.3m from charges but initial figures showed they were unlikely to achieve that.
Traders were furious the council was looking to make a profit from car parking, instead calling for free parking to remain as an incentive for shoppers, using either disc parking or free parking tickets.
Kieran McDonnell said: "The people of Whitley Bay didn't ask for parking meters; the only people who do want them is the council to get the money.
"The council put on what they want, they consult us then ignore that. That's what makes us annoyed."
Chamber chairman Alan Moses warned: "Some shops won't last the year if we get charged parking."
And in a letter to the chamber, cafe owner Eric Lewis said: "Short stay may well be beneficial to certain businesses but many of the shops in Park View have niche markets and it is important that visitors are given time to browse.
"More traditional businesses such as the butcher, the baker, the deli and the greengrocer need folks with time to spend moving from one shop to another if they are to compete with free parking at supermarkets.
"All we ask is a level playing field because we are confident that the quality is here and if we can encourage people to stay without having one eye on the clock, then Whitley Bay can satisfy the need."