Landowners eye car parking cash

PLANS to charge visitors for parking at East Lothian beaches were called into question today amid claims that landowners will want a cut of the cash raised.

The council’s Labour group, which runs the council in coalition with the Conservatives and an independent, has said it expects to raise almost £1 million a year from its proposed £2 per day charge at 13 beauty spots. But at six of the beaches, the council has a management or access agreement and pays a nominal sum to the landowner to allow parking.

SNP group leader Paul McLennan said if the council started to bring in revenue from the car parks the landowners could demand a share.

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He said: “If you start to charge, these private landowners would be looking for their cut as well. The lease agreements are usually that we lease the car park area for about £1 and we look after it.

“If we couldn’t come to an agreement about the income from charges, the car parks could be closed altogether.”

The three beach car parks at Longniddry are on land owned by the Wemyss and March estates. The council has a management agreement under which it pays a nominal sum to the estate.

Martin Andrews, factor for Wemyss and March, said: “We have not got a view on the charges yet. Having said that, we are a commercial organisation, we are not in the habit of doing things for nothing.”

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Andrew Wemyss, of land agency FBR, factor for the Luffness estate, which owns the car park at Aberlady beach, said he would be looking at the lease agreement with the council.

However, in Gullane, where the title to the car park land belongs to nearby houses, John Graham-Brown, chairman of the Hill Road owners, said rent was never collected and he would not expect a share of income from the new charges.

Council leader Willie Innes said that if landowners did demand part of the revenue, the council would have to negotiate.

He said he hoped a report on the charge could be brought to next month’s meeting of the full council.