Maryport Town Council has given its support to businesses around the harbour, which say they will be hugely affected by plans to remove all free parking.

Lake District Coast Aquarium owner Mark Vollers told the council this week that Maryport could not be considered visitor-friendly if there was no free or disc parking on the harbour.

Land owner Maryport Harbour and Marina Ltd has announced that it will now enforce paid parking on the harbour front and introduce permit parking an the street next to the Elizabeth Dock, beside the aquarium and the popular playground behind it.

The lack of free parking would also affect Maryport Navy Club and the Captain Nelson pub along with any businesses looking to set up on the harbour as part of the town’s regeneration plans.

Mr Vollers said the Tourist Information Centre is at the aquarium.

He said: “Do we now demand that visitors have to pay to park before they have even decided if they want to stay?”

The harbour authority also owns the Irish Street car park where, Mr Vollers said, people have to pay even if they are only parking to use the public toilets.

He was also upset that a coach park, which had been there for 20 years, has also been replaced by new metered parking spaces.

Mayor Peter Kendall said the harbour authority had not been enforcing parking charges for so long but now they were.

He pointed out it was the harbour authority’s land and asked Mr Vollers: “What do you want us to do?”

Mr Vollers replied: “I don’t want this to be an us-and-them situation. I would like to see some kind of co-operation between all those involved.

“The more footfall there is on the harbour, the better it is for everyone. There are plans to open a cafe at the marina so it would be beneficial to the authority, too, to have some free parking.”

Coun Linda Radcliffe said she had been concerned about the lack of free parking for some time.

Coun Carni McCarron-Holmes said that this might be something the town’s regeneration team could look at.

The council agreed that the regeneration team would work with Allerdale parking officers to look at ways to provide free parking around the harbour.