Angry residents have drawn up a petition objecting to a massive hike in car parking charges in Whitley Bay.
Nearly 1,200 people have signed the online petition calling for North Tyneside Council to scrap the 50 per cent rise in charges at the car parks along the seafront.
Residents said they were shocked at the beginning of the month when the authority increased the hourly charge from 80p to £1.20.
Fears have been raised that the price increase could drive visitors away, while concerns have been raised about plans to extend the parking charge until 8pm.
Local resident Jacqueline Quinn is hoping to hand over the petition to council bosses next week.
She said: “A friend of mine owns a shop in Whitley Bay, and like other business owners, she is rightly concerned about visitor numbers to our already depleted town.
“I am eager to support business in Whitley Bay and feel, as a lifetime resident, that the seafront is sorely in need of updating, care and attention.
“I am aware that other towns such as Hexham offer free short term parking to encourage visitors and it seems that North Tyneside Council is doing the opposite in driving away trade by raising car parking charges at all, never mind by 50 per cent.
“If I was taking my family out for the day, a consideration about where we might visit would definitely include price of parking. I’m not sure that there are many families who wouldn’t make that a priority.
“So, I started a petition and have 1,200 signatures objecting to the rise in parking charges on the seafront in Whitley Bay.”
Jacqueline added: “North Tyneside will be empty, towns like Hexham attracting visitors with free parking.
“Trade is poor in Whitley Bay and customers complain of difficulties and charges for parking.
“We already have empty shopfronts and a down beat town centre.”
A council spokesperson said: “We have kept car parking increases to an absolute minimum across North Tyneside.
“There is no increase to the parking charges in our town centres and the existing free parking will not be affected. The increase is solely for parking on the seafront.
“We are investing heavily in North Tyneside’s seafront to make it a vibrant and popular area, and we want to continue to encourage a steady turnover of people to come into the area to support tourism, our local businesses and keep the economy buoyant.
“Even with these increases, we believe our car parking charges are still extremely competitive and offer value for money.
“Income from our car parks covers the cost of their maintenance, lighting and enforcement.
“This increase will also help meet requests from residents for extra enforcement officers to extend patrols in the car parks.”