MOTORISTS could be charged to park in a busy seafront car park to fund its £50,000 expansion.

The Thorney Bay car park is currently free, but Castle Point Council could soon bring in charges because of its rising popularity.

Volunteers from the Canvey Bay Watch group have done such a good job of cleaning up the beach, planting palm trees, and installing benches, that thousands of visitors flocked to the seafront over the summer.

However, they complained about a lack of parking.

The council has applied for a £50,000 grant from the Coastal Revival Fund in a bid to expand the 22-space car park, but has warned without the funding it may have to introduce car park charges in line with the rest of Canvey seafront.

In a report to cabinet, Tom Skipp, councillor responsible for leisure, said: “If its grant application is not successful, the council will need to give serious consideration to going ahead and funding the extension of the car park ahead of the start of next year’s summer season.

“As the primary use of the car park is now for seafront visitors rather than a car park associated primarily with the use of the playground, it would be appropriate to reclassify the car park as a seasonal car park and to introduce parking charges in line with those that apply at the council’s other seafront car parks.”

At Labworth and Lubbins car parks, the council charges 50p for one hour, 70p for two hours, £1.10 for three hours and £2 for over three hours from Good Friday to September 30.

Charges apply between 9am and 7pm, including Bank Holidays.

If funding is made available, work to extend the car park is expected to be finished by March next year.

Barry Campagna, a Canvey Independent Party councillor and member of the Canvey Baywatch group, said he hopes toilets will be installed when the car park is extended to justify the new charges.

He added: “I haven’t got a problem with the charges but if they just extend it the car park without putting in proper facilities like toilets then I think it should stay free. It gets so busy down there and with an extended car park, we will need toilets there.

“I would like it to be free but we always thought a charge would be brought in.”

Mr Skipp insists the charges, which are expected to come in from Good Friday 2016, will be reviewed if there is a problem expanding the car park.

The proposals will be discussed by cabinet members during a meeting at Castle Point Council's offices, in Kiln Road, Thundersley, at 7pm tomorrow.