MARINA users have hit out at plans to increase car parking fees, which they claim would be a “serious setback to the marina’s image in the boating world”.
Scarborough Borough Council’s head of tourism and culture, Brian Bennett, has countered this by saying the current free permits are often abused and the council is attempting to strike a fair balance between the requirements of boat users and residents in general.
A decision is set to be made at SBC’s cabinet meeting in December, where councillors will vote on whether to charge for permits issued to boat users.
This would make Whitby only the second marina on the east coast to charge for parking, after Scarborough.
Geoff Lodge, chairman of Whitby Boating Association and vice-chairman of Whitby Harbour Consultative Group said: “We wish to make clear our strong opposition to such a move.
“Approximately 63% of berth holders live more than five miles from their boats and available car parking is essential for them to have the use of their boats.
“The marina is one of the major income streams for the harbour and should be valued as such and not jeopardised by being treated as a milch cow.
“Several boat owners see car parking charges, on top of a history of above inflation mooring fee increases, as being the last straw and are actively investigating the sale of their boats.
“We recognise that there have been improvements to the facilities and operation of the marina but would point out that these were essential if Whitby was to have any aspirations to be seen as a modern marina and desirable port of call for visiting boats.”
There is currently a waiting list for berths at the marina, which SBC believes indicates that overall charges are below the market rate.
However, Mr Lodge added that he believed this list will soon disappear if the charges are increased.
Mr Bennett said: “Parking in Whitby is at a premium.
“The charge for permits will not only raise additional income from the sale of those permits but it is expected it will reduce the occupancy of the car parks by boat users, freeing up spaces for other residents and visitors.
“A serious concern has been the alleged misuse of the permits in the past and it is important that we tighten the control on their use to minimise such opportunity.
“Given the location and popularity of the harbour, it is only right that the council reflects on what has been free and sometimes abused parking rights in a tourism hotspot.
“The proposal is supported by the Whitby Harbour Board and the Parking Review Group, though I understand the objections from boat users - naturally no-one wants to pay for something which traditionally has been free.”
Following the cabinet meeting, a formal consultation meeting will begin which will see public notices on display in various locations for further comments to be received.