BOSSES have been forced to backtrack on parking hikes for Southend seafront amid growing criticism from across the town.
Southend Council’s cabinet has this afternoon agreed to keep free parking from after 6pm, following huge concerns from businesses, traders, and MPs.
The council, as part of their new budget, planned to increase parking charges at the most popular areas of Southend’s seafront, with both the Western Esplanade and Fairheads Green car parks seeing the highest rises.
This change means that audiences at the Cliffs Pavilion, in Westcliff and restaurant goers parking in the Shorefield Road car park, can park for free after 6pm.
Hours of charging at the 80 space Cliffs Pavilion car park will reduce to 8am to 6pm, a change from 7am to 7pm.
Free parking after 6pm is a scheme that is already in place across Southend.
In another change, the new charge for some car parks on Southend seafront has dropped from £24 to £18 for between seven and ten hours.
This is still an increase from the current £12 charge.
Enforcement will continue after 6pm, but only for issues such as drivers parking on double yellow lines.
Southend and Rochford MP James Duddridge slammed the parking proposals at the weekend, saying the move could have a detrimental impact on Southend’s recovery from the pandemic.
This comes as Southend Council has revealed a letter has been written to the Southend Tourism Partnership, following their criticism of the proposals last week.
Headed by Roslin Hotel director Jacqui Dallimore, the partnership urged the council to reconsider the plans.
The letter reads: “Firstly, we wanted to thank you for your letter regarding the proposed parking charges as part of the council’s draft budget proposals for 2021/22, and for clearly laying out the views of the Southend Tourism Partnership as part of the budget consultation process.
“We are pleased that you reflected the financial pressures that the council faces, and the need to make difficult decisions at this time.
“However, we also understand the importance of the tourism, arts and culture sector to Southend and all the benefits that brings to the borough, and the fact that this sector has been under pressure and just like local authorities, continues to face uncertain times.
“We have thought carefully about the comments made in your letter, and also feedback from other businesses and local people.”
RonWoodley, deputy leader of the council, said: “We have listened to feedback and I am pleased that we have been able to set out some amendments to the proposals today, and worked with my cabinet colleagues for the benefit of the tourism and arts and cultural sector.
“All our budget proposals need to be taken in the context of the severe financial pressures we face and the fact that we have to set a balanced budget that protects frontline services.
“The last 12 months have applied unprecedented pressures on council budgets across the country.
“These pressures, alongside the 90 per cent reduction in Government grants over the past 10 years, means as a council we have to be self-sustainable, and we must look at ways of helping to fund local services and highways improvements for example to keep the borough moving forward, whilst maintaining our council tax levels as one of the lowest in Essex.
“But we also understand that local people and businesses face these pressures too, and that is why we have made these amendments and driven forward the introduction of the Southend Pass, which at £8.50 a month or less than 30p a day, will offer three hours parking every day in each of the Borough’s four zones.
“This will be of great benefit to local shoppers and visitors, but also those working in the High Street for example, who will save greatly from using this regularly.
“The proposed budget also shows a game changing level of £50m proposed investment in the Borough’s roads and pavements over the next five years.”