Coastal car park fees could rise by 26pc
Car park charges could rise at popular tourist hotspots along the county's coast.
North Norfolk District Council is considering increasing fees at 30 of its sites in order to help balance the books.
The possible increase - the first in six years - would cover the car parks in Wells, Cromer and Weybourne, which are some of the region's busiest in the summer months.
A range of options are being considered, with a 26.6pc increase mooted at the most extreme end. This would see a £1.50 ticket in coastal car parks rise to £1.90. A three-hour stay would rise from £4.50 to £5.70.
An increase to the £7 all-day coastal ticket has not been suggested.
The proposals have prompted concern from tourism bosses. John Roseby, Sheringham Chamber of Trade chairman, argued the council should not put up parking fees in case it puts off visitors coming back.
"The charges are already fairly excessive when you think about some of the discount car parks in the city centre.
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"I think people pay enough already in places like Sheringham and if anything it should go down.
"I appreciate the strain councils are under but if they don't want to create a backlash then they should leave well enough alone."
Mr Roseby was also concerned it could lead to people parking in residential areas or paying but finding it too expensive and not returning in the future.
NNDC is currently projecting a budget deficit of £2.5m by 2025/26 and the extra cash would help limit the damage.
A report to councillors said: "Car parking income represents a significant income source to the Council and as such has a substantial contribution to make to the Council’s longer-term financial sustainability and helping to set and maintain a balanced budget."
Car parks have generated around £1.6m of net income – cash after costs are removed - per year since 2016.
Three options have been put forward for the consideration of councillors on the overview and scrutiny committee: to increase charges at all sites by between 10p and 40p, increase charges in coastal car parks between March and October, or, to increase season ticket prices.
A 40p increase to all car parks is projected to bring in around £540,000 a year, while a 10p increase would bring £154,000.
NNDC owns 32 car parks, 30 of which operate a pay and display scheme, with charges in place between 8am and 6pm.
Rates for North Norfolk car parks are generally lower than similar coastal areas.
Great Yarmouth seafront charges £2.50 per hour in the summer and Wells Beach Road is £3.50 for up to two hours.
The report said the extra cash will be needed to continue to provide services.
It said: "Car parking income needs to be considered against the context of our discretionary service provision which people value but which is often difficult to charge for, such as public conveniences, the seafront environment and Blue Flag beaches, beach lifeguards, additional street cleansing, litter bins etc.
"It is becoming increasingly more difficult for the council to continue to provide these services at the level expected by local residents, businesses and tourist visitors from council taxpayers alone."
If fees had increased by 3.5pc every year from 2016, parking at the council's coastal facilities would now be £1.84 - a 34p increase - by April 2022.
Eric Seward, cabinet for finance and assets, said the council had not made a decision on increasing fees and stressed that one of the options was to do nothing.
"There are a range of options put forward but the cabinet has no preferred option were just setting out the options in front of us.
"The challenge that the district faces is that there is an uncertain financial future.
"The second issue is that of maintaining high standards with the increase of visitors we are getting which costs money - Cromer pier is an obvious example."
Mr Seward said that if there was an increase he did not think it would be at the top end.
The committee will discuss the options and make recommendations on Wednesday which will then go to NNDC cabinet.