Tourists deterred by North Norfolk District Council’s evening car-park charges - claim
Tourists are packing their bags and heading home because of 'non-visitor friendly' evening parking fees, according to a district councillor.
Since April, when a new �1 6pm-11pm charge was introduced as part of a wider shake-up, 1,127 tourists and locals have been caught out.
Together with day-time 'offenders', they have been fined more than �77,000 for breaking the council's parking rules.
Of that sum, 40pc has been handed over to the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, whose staff police the car parks, leaving NNDC to pocket more than �46,000.
Almost one in four of all penalty charge notices issued during the period were for evening parking infringements, with most motorists facing either a �50 fine, or �25 if paid within 14 days.
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Total income for evening parking fines alone is not available. However, if all motorists paid promptly it would mean the evening charge has already generated more than �28,000 income at the very least - more than one third of the total for all parking penalties.
District and county councillor Graham Jones is calling for NNDC's Conservative administration to rethink its charging policy which he claims is: 'hopelessly out of line with the council's tourism objectives and could reasonably be described as non-visitor friendly.'
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Mr Jones added that the damage it was doing to tourism and the local economy 'could have a devastating impact for a number of years to come'.
He has highlighted the disappointing 10pc fall in audience figures for this season's Seaside Special at the Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre and letters from angry regular visitors published in the News.
Among them, Colin Scrupps, from Boston in Lincolnshire, wrote that he, his wife and two friends had been caught out by the evening charge during their annual visit to see the show.
'We are all agreed that this year will be the last year that we holiday in Norfolk, and we will not be visiting the pier theatre any more - sadly,' he added.
Mr Jones' criticisms coincide with a decision by West Norfolk Council to continue suspending a �1 evening charge introduced in Hunstanton in July, to help hard-pressed traders.
Hunstanton Chamber of Trade chairman William Searle said the suspension had saved the season. Car parks were still 75pc full at 8pm. Previously people had been returning to their cars at 6pm and driving home.
Rhodri Oliver, NNDC cabinet member responsible for car parks, said: 'Car-parking charges are vital for the protection of the North Norfolk council-tax payer. This is because the charges allow tourists to subsidise the services NNDC provides. If we were to provide free car parking, NNDC council tax would need to increase by 28pc overnight. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community do not own a car and in my view should not subsidise people who can afford a car, from both inside and outside the district.'