CRITICS of variable parking charges at the seafront have been criticised as “naive” by senior politicians at Southend Council.

A report published last week revealed the council was considering using new variable tariffs for seafront car parks which would see the price automatically adjust based on demand.

Prices could rise by as much as 43 per cent during peak hours, with the highest increase taking place near to major tourist destinations such as the Sea Life Centre and Adventure Island.

Councillor Andrew Moring, chairman of the council’s traffic and parking working group, said: “Unfortunately there’s been some rather ill-conceived comments on social media stating we should have publicly consulted businesses and the public before we published the report but that is backwards.

“We commissioned the report from experts as a foundation for a consultation and today we offer it to consultation to members.

“Members can make comments and that will be fed back into the report and if it passes full council it will then go out to public consultation.

“I don’t know why it’s a flurry on social media criticising us for not consulting.”

Senior business figures and seafront traders have expressed anger at the council commissioning consultants and holding meetings about the plan and only involving them, and the public, later on in the process.

Mr Moring, during a cabinet meeting at Southend Council, said the idea was to “motivate people” to park in other spaces in the town centre away from the centre.

Leader John Lamb added: “You have to remember those who come out on social media and criticise the council are experts – that is what they would say – about traffic and parking. They are more expert than the experts we engage who really are experts and do know the business.

“Some of them think they know the business and make all the comment and they don’t recognise all the work we have done to increase the number of parking elements within our town. This is the start of a consultation not the end as some critics say it is. It just shows how naïve some of them are.”

The report also proposes making the civic centre car park on Victoria Avenue free at weekends and reducing parking charges at others.

Seafront trader Paul Thompson labelled the proposals a “tax on people coming to the seafront” and Philip Miller, executive chairman of the Stockvale Group, which owns businesses including Adventure Island, said the council’s track record on improving the town “stinks” upon seeing the scheme.