A County Durham business owner who has invested £150,000 into their popular café spot has expressed concern at "worrying" parking charges which are set to come into effect next week.

Sean Golightly, 53, took over North Beach Coffee Bar in Seaham in March of 2021 - and since then has built up a loyal customer base and reputation for drinks, lunch and sweet treats.

However, Sean is now facing uncertainty for his business as new car parking charges will be introduced from April 15, which will see motorists pay £3 a day to park in several sites including outside his café in Seaham Hall Beach car park.

The Northern Echo: Machine being installed in Seaham Hall Beach Car Park.Machine being installed in Seaham Hall Beach Car Park. (Image: NORTH BEACH COFFEE BAR)

Despite thousands of objections, the scheme was voted through by Durham County Council in February in a bid to bring the coastal destination "in line" with others in the region.

The car parks which will see charges installed are:

  • Seaham Hall Beach 
  • Vane Tempest
  • Terrace Green
  • Seaham Marina
  • Dock Top
  • Noses Point 
  • Crimdon Beach

Mark Jackson, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, said: "The introduction of parking charges in six car parks on Seaham seafront will bring it into line with the rest of the car parks along the North East’s coast, where charges are already in place.

"The charges, which will apply to all, will be £1 for up to one hour, or £3 to park all day. There will still be free car parking in numerous other car parks around Seaham town centre, all of which are a short walk from the seafront.

"Parking charges are widely used to control parking availability and support the commercial viability of town centres and attractions by increasing turnover of spaces in areas where there is high demand.

"They improve parking availability for residents and visitors, and in turn, increase the number of people coming into communities and spending money. They also help lower emissions and improve local air quality."

With less than a week until the charges will come into force, Sean has expressed several concerns regarding issues the parking could have on his business.

He said: "First of all, where are my staff going to park? They are not going to pay to park outside the building when on a weekday I see about 20 cars maximum here.

"It's not just an impact on the footfall into our business, which is going to be impacted badly enough, it's the parking charges because you're going to make myself and my staff park outside our own building.

"It cost us about £150,000 to renovate the building after Covid - and we're really proud of it. We get really good feedback, as we've changed the face of what's down there."

Alongside his staff facing the prospect of paying to park outside of work, Sean has fears for his takeaway business.

He explained that whilst some customers do park up and come inside, many simply pop in and grab a coffee to go. Under the new scheme, they'd have to pay to park, prompting fears of reduced footfall.

Sean added: "We have a lot of people who come in after they've walked their dogs on a regular basis. On the weekends when the weather is good, I think we will be okay but I think there will be a slight drop-off.

"But, it's the weekdays that I worry about. There are bank holidays and summer holidays but most of the time the weather is poor, people are at work and are generally finding it difficult.

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"They're feeling the pinch - and we've noticed it. We've seen reduced footfall, it is things like this that really worry me.

"The parking charges are just another reason for people not to come down - it's a reason for them to think twice.

"It's worrying. Considering the fact I have every single penny and some of my savings into this shop if the business went under I am screwed completely."