RESIDENTS have slammed plans to turn a historic green space near North Berwick seafront into a car park ahead of The Open this summer.
Concerns have been raised over the proposals to create a total of around 200 extra parking spaces in the town amid fears it could lead to bottlenecks in the town centre.
The seaside town, which lies just five miles from the Open venue at Muirfield, has been blighted with traffic problems in recent years, sparking an appraisal of potential car parking sites for residents and visitors.
A report – commissioned in 2011 – has found that demand for residents’ parking alone “outstrips current on-street parking supply in the summer months”, without visitors to the town even being taken into account.
Ten identified sites have been whittled down to three following consultation with town leaders and local councillors: Glebe Car Park, Tantallon Terrace and Dunbar Road car park at North Berwick Rugby Club.
Ross Richardson, 53, who grew up on Tantallon Terrace, said residents were “absolutely horrified” at the proposal to build car parking bays on the street’s historic green space.
He said: “This goes back hundreds of years, the rights of people on this land. About the land itself, a couple of years ago the council stopped cutting the grass because they claimed that some special species of orchid had been discovered there and had to be preserved.
“It’d be slightly ironic and hypocritical if they then concreted it over.”
Fellow resident and retiree Neil Burns added: “I would just find it quite disappointing to see a historical green space like that be overnight transformed into a car park.
“In the summertime, because it’s a one-way system along the seafront, increased traffic feeding into that car park would just cause chaos, with traffic congestion and confusion.”
Ward councillor David Berry said “throwing car parking spaces” at the three preferred locations would not address the real problem.
“[MVA Consultancy] were tasked with finding car parking, but I think it’s a fools errand,” he said.
“I think North Berwick could cope with lots more pedestrians, but long term I think the sensible solution would be a park and ride in the west of town is sensible to provide volume car parking without affecting the town itself.”
Cllr Berry said that the combined total of car parking spaces at schools, sports centres and railway station which were “hardly used at the weekends” would contribute up to 200 extra bays.
And he added: “I think we could be smarter with the facilities we already have prior to The Open.
“In my view, crow-barring more parking spaces into the town is not the solution.”
Sheila Sinclair, chair of North Berwick Community Council, said the MVA car parking report was unrelated to controversy over the recent introduction of beach car parking charges by East Lothian Council.
“What has been proposed is an interim suggestion and for a trial period of a couple of years,” she said. “Car parking is an ongoing problem and this is something which might help alleviate it.
“Parking in North Berwick is extremely contentious and some people are likely to be unhappy with these suggestions.
Because The Open Championships are being held in Muirfield this year, we thought it would be desirable if these could be introduced before it takes place in the summer.”
East Lothian Council is likely to debate the car parking report in the new year.
A council statement said: “The cost of new parking is estimated at £620,000. Therefore, provision of this will depend on the availability of council resources at a time of increasing financial restraint.”
The Open takes place from July 18-21.