Confusion reigns over free parking

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A FREE parking farce has erupted in Morpeth.

County council bosses have been accused of breaking a deal to offer free parking in the town on the last two Saturdays of the month.

Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade believed it had come to an agreement with Northumberland County Council to introduce the initiative to help struggling businesses during the town centre roadworks.

But within hours of the notice being issued, the council announced that no formal offer had been made.

Chamber Chairman John Beynon said: “The offer has been pulled. The right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing at County Hall.

“We have done everything by the book. We have been telling businesses that free parking was being offered. Now we will have to tell them it’s not.”

On Tuesday, the chamber announced that the council had offered free parking in Morpeth on February 18 and February 25. But yesterday, the council retracted the notice, saying the offer had not been agreed.

A chamber statement said: “The partnership working together to promote the retail package in Morpeth at the current moment in time is very disappointed that the offer of two weekends of free car parking in the town has been withdrawn by Northumberland County Council.

“The press release issued on Tuesday had been signed off on behalf of the partners and Northumberland County Council so there has clearly been an internal decision by the county to retract the offer. The partnership will continue to work pro-actively to promote the attractions of Morpeth, not only in the short-term, but strategically going forward, and is keen for Northumberland County Council to be part of that process.”

Coun Peter Jackson, Leader of the Conservative opposition group, said: “Since the roadworks began we have said that Morpeth’s county councillors should be calling for free parking during this period to give traders in the town a gee-up in this difficult time for them. It appeared that they were listening to the concerns of businesses, so it’s sad that they have returned to their intransigent ways.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Discussions about all aspects of the roadworks in Morpeth are ongoing. No formal offer of free parking has been approved.”