Backing for free parking

Mathesons Gardens car park, Morpeth.
Mathesons Gardens car park, Morpeth.
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THE move to agree free parking in a number of Northumberland towns has been welcomed by a political group.

Plans put forward by various town and parish councils for their public car parks were approved by the county council’s Labour Administration last week.

It gave towns and villages the opportunity to remove the charges for stopping in these facilities, saying that the income cut was worth taking to assist communities.

Morpeth is among the places that will stop the fees and bring in a disc system to manage the time limits in the short-stay facilities from April 1.

Making free parking available to towns in the north and west areas of the county was a policy of the Conservative group and it was in its manifesto for last year’s elections.

Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “It’s nice to see a solution to our long-term campaign.

“The towns and villages that have agreed free parking will benefit as they will become more attractive places to visit.

“The local consultations have been very interesting and the towns are going ahead with a disc-based system, which we believe is the common sense approach.

“One area that needs to be spot-on is enforcement and I hope the council will react if problems arise in particular areas by allocating extra resources.”

A report that went to the authority’s Policy Board said there will be a reduction in Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) posts because of the new free parking arrangements.

However, it will be achieved through vacant positions and as the council is currently operating with these vacancies, the enforcement levels in place at the moment will be maintained.

In response to Coun Jackson’s statement about enforcement, Policy Board Member for Streetcare and Environment Ian Swithenbank said that the officers will receive extra training so they can expand their operations.

He added: “One of the main things to come out of the consultation with residents was that people want multi-tasked officers who can also deal with issues such as dog fouling and litter.”