SOUTHEND could become one of the most expensive resorts in the country for seafront parking if eye-watering plans to add extra charges go ahead, a senior councillor has warned. 

Brighton – where tourists are forced to fork out £24.21 for an eight hour stay – has long held the title of the seaside town with the priciest parking.

But under plans to reintroduce controversial 6pm to 9pm parking charges on the seafront, Tory councillor responsible for parking Kevin Buck fears it will now cost “in excess of £25” to park on the seafront for a day. 

Despite fears the new charges will turn tourists away and have a major impact on businesses, councillors behind plans to add extra evening charges insist the money will help make Southend Council cash “to fix the city’s dangerous roads”. 

Echo: 'Absolute naivety' - Mr Buck is staunchly against the car parking plans.'Absolute naivety' - Mr Buck is staunchly against the car parking plans. (Image: Kevin Buck)

Mr Buck said: “This will make Southend the most expensive seaside resort in the country.

“That is a title currently held by Brighton, where it costs £24 to park all day, but Southend is set to take that crown.

“It will push people away – not only tourists who come for the day. We know the night-time economy is more supported by locals.

“They’re particularly targeting the night-time economy. It will be the residents who end up paying.”

Under plans by Southend Labour, Independent and Lib Dem councillors the charges will cost drivers £8.30 to park on the seafront between 6pm and 9pm. 

According to the council website, it costs £2.80 to park for one hour in Zone 1A, which is along the seafront, and £19.30 for up to 10 hours.

A recent study by car checker Motorscan shows Southend as the fourth most expensive for average parking costs across the city at £11.50 for eight hours. Brighton is top at £24.21 with Newquay second, costing £12.32, and third is Falmouth at £12.12.

Despite the extra evening charges, the Labour, Lib Dem and Independent budget amendments will see city centre fees cut by 11.4 per cent 

However, Mr Buck says the extended charges could put Southend at a disadvantage against places which offer free evening parking.

He said: “Basildon Festival Leisure is thriving, with 2,000 free parking spaces. Visitors can go bowling, have a meal, and enjoy free parking.

“We’re competing against that, but we’re charging. It just shows absolute and complete naivety and lack of understanding of the city, its economy, and the economy in general.

“People think putting the prices up will bring in more money. They don’t realise that over-pricing something will push people away.

“Once people go elsewhere, they probably won’t come back.”

Despite the concerns, independent Thorpe councillor Martin Terry, who is one of the councillors behind the plans, says the new charges must be introduced to help cover the cost of road repairs.

He said: “Southend’s roads are in their worst state for decades. We need the money to repair them.“It’s simply immoral to give parking discounts to visitors who are using our roads.”


Echo: 'We need the money' - Mr Terry says Southend's 'dangerous' roads must be repaired.'We need the money' - Mr Terry says Southend's 'dangerous' roads must be repaired. (Image: Martin Terry)

Mr Terry insists the charges are targeted at “day-trippers”, while shoppers and businesses will benefit from reduced parking costs.

He added: “The roads are actually dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, but there’s not enough money in the council’s budget to maintain them.

“I think the traders are being rather selfish. I understand they want to look after their businesses, but the council has to look after the whole city.

“Why should residents be put in danger to pacify seafront traders?”

Both Mr Terry and Mr Buck have been locked in a fierce debate on Twitter over the charges, with Mr Terry pushing the “Southend Parking Pass” as an alternative for residents to help them avoid extra charges. 

Under the parking pass, which allows residents to park in council-owned spaces for an annual fee, Mr Terry insists it will only cost drivers 34p per day to park in the city. 

He said: “It’s the deal of the century. The parking pass is a massive bonus, as people can use it for multiple cars.” 

Mr Terry admitted uptake has been poor, but says that is down to a lack of marketing.

He added: “It’s a fantastic offer, but the council simply hasn’t marketed it properly.”