Marina bar and restaurant chiefs say they will 'go out of business' over parking issues
Businesses on Hartlepool marina have appealed to the mayor of Tees Valley to help them tackle parking concerns they say are damaging trade.
Several owners of bars and restaurants on Navigation Point made impassioned pleas to Ben Houchen saying he is their last hope.
The businesses say too many customers are being fined unfairly after a camera operated system was brought in to monitor car parking in November.
They claim the fines together with 24-hour pay and display parking have had a dramatic effect on footfall and is threatening their livelihoods.
Curios jewellery and gift shop has announced it is closing on Navigation Point after 20 years blaming the rising costs of business rates, service charges, rent and parking charges.
Mayor Houchen who is pledging free parking across the region if re-elected says he is “massively concerned”.
But property company Mandale, which owns the car park, denies the charges and regime are to blame for businesses struggling.
Businesses say examples of fines reported to them include people who had bought tickets still being fined, vehicles dropping people off being fined, customers not realising they have to pay after 6pm, which was previously free, and on bank holidays, being three minutes over, and disabled drivers not realising they must pay.
Adam Gaines, of Rosie’s bar, said: “Once someone gets a fine they don’t come back.”
Businesses also told Mayor Houchen that trade during the week had plummeted leading to staff being laid off.
Birol Sert from Agora Turkish Cuisine said: “I used to have 12-13 people working for me, now it’s just four.
“If we don’t get anybody to support us soon we will all go out of business one by one.”
Darab Rezai, who has The Conservatory, added: “At the moment this car park is impacting the tourists, the customers.
“Ben, you are our only hope.”
Mayor Houchen, who was accompanied at the meeting by the Mayor of Hartlepool and Conservative Councillor Brenda Loynes, promised to contact Mandale and the parking management company to ask them to justify the current regime.
He will also contact Hartlepool Borough Council Leader Councillor Shane Moore and will seek clarification on the council’s investment plans for the area.
He said: “It’s a massive concern. The marina is the crown jewel in Hartlepool and we need to make sure it’s here for the long term.
“I’m more than happy to champion the causes of local businesses who find themselves without a solution.”
Joe Darragh, estates director for Mandale, said: “That pay and display car park has been there for 10 years. All we’ve done is upgraded the system to make things better by getting rid of the traffic wardens.
“It allows people to pay on their phones.”
Mr Darragh said disabled visitors have had to pay since charges were first introduced and said the number of vehicles visiting Navigation Point has not changed in the last two years.
He added: “People who say they are unfairly getting tickets, if you looked into it they won’t be.”