North Berwick parking charges could boost active travel and business footfall

East Lothian Greens back plans for parking charges in North Berwick to raise funds for improved active travel, public transport and town centre improvements to boost footfall to businesses

The results of the recent consultation and proposals for next steps to improve parking management in North Berwick were voted on by county councillors at the East Lothian Council (ELC) meeting on Tuesday 25 April.

While some aspects of the proposal clearly require further consideration – not least the proposals for parking outside the health centre – East Lothian Greens support the introduction of parking charges and safety improvements for pedestrians in North Berwick in close consultation with residents of the county.

In our 2022 manifesto, East Lothian Greens emphasised our support for the introduction of parking charges to encourage more active travel modes such as walking and cycling, to cover the cost of parking provision for ELC, and to raise revenue for other schemes, such as improved public transport.

If Scotland is to achieve the Scottish Government’s target of reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030, all councils must do their part to encourage alternative transport modes such as walking, wheeling, and cycling.

As one of only seven councils in Scotland that does not charge for parking, the introduction of parking charges is long overdue.

Finally, as 24% of East Lothian residents do not have access to a car and do not benefit from free parking, there is fairness underlying the proposals, as parking charges will cover the cost of managing and maintaining parking in the town.

Many other cities and towns have introduced parking charges successfully and without negative impacts on local business. Indeed, the economic impact assessment of proposed improvements to the east end of the high street predicted that footfall on North Berwick High Street might increase by as much as 5%.

This would bring a welcome boost to business.

Moreover, proposed charges are low. The current proposal allows for free parking charge for 45 minutes, with a subsequent charge of £1 per hour. Free parking for all blue badge holders would be included. Residents in parking zones will be able to purchase an annual pass for less than £1 per vehicle per week.

Councillor Shona Macintosh said:

I understand businesses have had a hard time since Covid and are worried about changes but there is no evidence that parking charges negatively affect the local economy, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. This is the right thing to do for our amenity, environment and economy in the towns and villages across East Lothian.

Care must be taken to develop appropriate proposals for St. Baldred’s Road that ensure that drivers can park close to the health centre for a sufficient length of time to attend medical appointments. It will be critical to work closely with community representatives to ensure that parking management measures allow for this.

Finally, Greens support the proposal to widen pavements and improve road safety at the East End of North Berwick High Street, while retaining bays for loading and unloading and blue badge spaces.

Co-convenor of East Lothian Greens Jacq Cottrell said:

These improvements will be welcomed by a substantial majority in the local community and will deliver the “pedestrian pound” and are very much in line with our manifesto commitment to deliver more space for walking, wheelchairs, buggies / prams and cycling and to redesign town centres to prioritise the movement of people rather than cars.