SOUTHEND Council has been accused of “ignoring hundreds of residents” who have opposed plans to introduce new parking charges on the seafront.

Controversial 6pm to 9pm parking was first implemented by a former Labour-led joint administration, before being scrapped when the Tories took over last May.

At Thursday’s traffic regulations working party, the new joint administration voted to reinstate the unpopular charge, saying visitors needed to pay their way.

However, Kevin Buck, Conservative councillor for Prittlewell ward, slammed the council for “ignoring” a petition from residents.

He said: “We’ve had 568 objectors so far to the 6pm to 9pm parking charges who have signed a petition on the council website and they’ve been completely ignored and dismissed as irrelevant.

“Your punitive charging policies are going to penalise visitors to Southend and it will deter them from coming and it will impact businesses. It impacts parking revenue because people simply won’t come.”

Despite claims the charges were aimed at tourists, Mr Buck fears the city’s residents will be hit hardest.

He added: “Who do you think uses the seafront in the evenings. The majority of people who use the seafront in the evening are the residents, so you expect residents to pay.”

The Tories attempted to get the meeting postponed, saying objectors hadn’t been informed. However, the council insisted the meeting had been advertised in the normal manner.

Daniel Cowan, chairman of the committee and leader of the council, said: “We have to recognise the assets that we have as an authority but also the cost of the upkeep of those assets. We cannot continue to allow them to be used for free.

“Where they are being used heavily we should look to increase our revenue. Last year the 6pm to 9pm charges, in the two months it was operational, achieved almost 80 per cent of what it was believed it would take over a 12-month period.”

Lydia Hyde, councillor responsible for climate, environment and waste, added: “Effectively, council tax payers are subsidising our visitors. Not just road repairs. In my own brief of waste, I was astonished to find about 20 per cent of our waste disposal is due to street waste.

“A vast majority of our street waste is produced at the seafront and along the high street. When you look at how much money we are spending on disposing of our waste it is millions."