THE elderly and disabled will suffer if “scandalous” charges to park at some of the Lothians’ most popular beaches are introduced, pensioner groups have warned.
Visitors to 13 beaches across East Lothian are set to be hit with a £2 charge for using the council’s car park facilities if proposals put forward by the Labour group are approved.
However, pensioner groups have criticised the plans amid fears that many infirm or elderly people will not be able to afford the charge. Gillian Wilson, 78, from Dunbar, who is retired, said: “Some people are quite limited in the distance that they can walk.
“The beaches are very well used by older people, particularly Belhaven Bay.
“I can’t walk from my home to Belhaven Bay and then walk around for my birdwatching, and I know I’m not alone in that. I’m not going to be able go birdwatching as often – if you go to the beach every day it will cost you £14.
“A lot of older people are going to see this as an infringement on their freedom.”
The proposal to introduce coastal car parking charges was first put forward by Labour when it was in power back in 2007.
However, the plan was scrapped by the last SNP-Lib Dem coalition the following year.
New proposals to introduce the charge, which could be brought in as early as this summer, have been attacked by the opposition SNP group as a “tourism tax”.
The Labour group hopes the scheme could raise up to £1 million, which would be invested in the regeneration of the coast.
Cathy Leech, vice chairwoman of the Scottish Pensioners Association, said: “These charges are absolutely scandalous.
“A lot of old people have disabilities and they can’t walk very far.
“Many of them are already paying for blue badges – now they want to make them pay another £2.
“It’s another way for councils which have mismanaged their finances to get it back from the public.
“Everybody is feeling the pinch these days, especially the elderly.
The East Lothian Community Care Forum, which plans health and community care services to meet the needs of vulnerable people in the county, said: “It’s a bit aggressive of the council.
“They are trying to make money by introducing these charges, but it is making things even harder for the people who are less able in society.
“These people very often have very limited opportunities for recreational leisure, and transport in East Lothian is very hard to find.”