SEASON tickets to East Lothian’s beaches are to be brought in under plans to charge visitors £2 a day for parking, it has been revealed.
Council chiefs said they would not be able to offer local residents a specific discount, even though they are already paying towards coastal maintenance through their council tax.
As a way of alleviating growing concern about the proposals, it was revealed that a range of different season tickets would be prepared to cut the costs for regular users.
These would be available to anyone, meaning regular visitors from Edinburgh could also get a discount.
The proposal to levy a £2 per day charge for parking at 13 beauty spots across the county has provoked a storm of protest, with critics claiming the fee will deter tourists and penalise locals, especially elderly people who need to drive to the beach.
Some had suggested one way of softening the blow would be to set a lower charge for East Lothian residents.
But after council chiefs ruled out such special treatment, the proposal for discounted season tickets was suggested.
Councillor Willie Innes, leader of the Labour group, which runs the council in coalition with the Tories and an independent, said: “European legislation says we can’t give special rates to locals.”
Instead, Cllr Innes said the council would hope to offer season tickets and other packages for regular users.
He said: “We would look to develop a range of tickets – season tickets, tickets for people who only visit midweek or at weekends – and a range of concessions for disabled people and others.
“If there was someone in Edinburgh who came down every day, it would be sensible for them to consider a package.
“If they had a season ticket, I’m sure they would not mind paying a modest charge for the facilities.
“When I go to Edinburgh, I pay and I don’t complain. We don’t charge for on-street parking, Edinburgh does.”
Cllr Innes had originally hoped the charges could be introduced this summer, but he has given an assurance they will not be “pushed through” before the next full council meeting on August 28.
He predicts the levy will raise almost £1 million a year, which would regenerate the coast.
But SNP opposition leader Paul McLennan has rubbished the claim as “totally unrealistic”, pointing out a calculation the last time charges were proposed put the figure at just over £300,000.
He said: “The legal advice is we have to charge visitors and local residents the same.”
A report to councillors when charges were being considered before warned there could be no special car parking discount for locals.
It said: “It has been established that there can be no differential between resident and non-residents in accessing such facilities, based upon an established test case in European Community member states which found that treating some nationals more favourably than others was illegal.”