CHANGES will be introduced at many of Morpeth’s car parks in a shake-up of the system.
Countywide tariffs have been drawn up by Northumberland County Council and there will be a change in time limits for spaces.
Some car parks will have a maximum stopping time of three hours, up from two at the moment in three cases.
The 106 spaces in Newmarket East, which are currently limited to five hours, will be available all day, although The Terrace, with 85 spaces next to Morpeth Library, will change from all-day parking to up to three hours.
And while the new shoppers’ permit will allow residents to park free in other towns at certain parts of the day, it will only be available to use in four Morpeth car parks.
The details were revealed to town stakeholders at a meeting with county council officers.
Nothing has yet been disclosed on whether there will be any changes to charges, or if they will be introduced at facilities that are currently free.
Traders and residents in north and west settlements, including Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham, are unhappy that motorists have to fork out in their towns, but do not have to pay in south east Northumberland locations, such as Blyth, Ashington, Bedlington and Cramlington.
Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade’s Car Parking Sub Committee Chairman Charles Robinson said: “All of Morpeth’s car parks will either be up to three hours or all-day and that is a positive.
“Quite a number of people tell us that if they are parked in a location with a maximum stay of two hours and they have an appointment at a hairdresser, doctors or dentist, usually when they come out afterwards they go back to their car and drive home because they do not have time to go shopping.
“The officers wouldn’t be drawn on car parking charges, all they said is that they are working on the pay-and-display tariffs.”
Fellow Chamber member Geoff Proudlock added: “The county council is basing its strategy on congestion levels, but nothing is being said about the income they bring in and I don’t see why it should deny this.”
Under the plans, nine car parks have been given a T3 medium stay classification – those close to the town centre with high demand. People can stay for up to 30 minutes, one hour, two hours or three hours.
They are Back Riggs North, Castle Square, Corporation Yard, Dacre Street, Newmarket West, Stanley Terrace North (Morrisons), The Terrace and Whalebone Lane. Stanley Terrace South is also in this category, but Lidl supermarket has requested a maximum length of stay of 90 minutes.
The T4 flexible stay facilities — those further from the town centre or adjacent to other facilities with medium to high demand — are Grey’s Yard, Matheson’s Gardens, Newmarket East and St James. The stopping time ranges from 30 minutes to all day.
The changes will come into effect this summer or autumn.
Dark Lane will become part of the new Morrisons supermarket short stay car park, although its long stay parking will be replaced by an underground facility. Discussions are on-going about how they will be operated.
The shoppers permit will be available for £15, with a maximum of two per household, and can be used between 9am and 11am and from 3pm to 6pm Monday to Saturday, as well as Sundays and bank holidays.
Applications can be made from May and in Morpeth it will be valid in Stanley Terrace North, Stanley Terrace South, Newmarket East and Newmarket West.
Greater Morpeth Development Trust Chairman Doug Phillips said: “One down side of this is that I won’t be able use the shoppers permit in some of the car parks that I can use my current Morpeth Shoppers Permit in at the moment.
“But a positive for the Morpeth economy is that people in south east Northumberland can park and shop in our town without having to pay charges at certain times of the day.”
The county council will take over the enforcement of on-street parking regulations from Northumbria Police next month. There will be approximately 26 civil enforcement officers employed, with the central team covering Morpeth.
These arrangements will help to improve traffic flow, reduce illegal parking and provide better access to town centre businesses and services.