PARKING charges in Morpeth could be set to rise, traders have warned.
Rumours of an increase in hourly fees for the town from September surfaced at the monthly meeting of Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade.
It follows news that Northumberland County Council is looking to make £547,000 from parking revenue, and the authority has confirmed that discussions are to take place.
Chamber Vice Chairman Charles Robinson, who leads its Car Parking Sub-Committee, said: “The council is looking for efficiency savings of £547,000, which has got to be found somewhere. If it can’t find it in saving money then it will have to find it from increasing revenue.
“It is extremely worrying that it is talking about finding that sum of money. Unless the car parks have been run incredibly inefficiently, and I don’t think that is the case, then it can only find that money by increasing charges substantially. We are very worried that car parking charges are going to rise to plug the gap.”
Mr Robinson said Morpeth has already seen a 50 per cent increase in parking charges in the last five years and he is also concerned that Northumberland’s market towns will be left with the whole burden as no parking fees at all are currently levied in the south east of the county.
“Car parking charges in this area have already gone up by 50 per cent in five years and we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Morpeth and the market towns are already shouldering a massive part of the car parking charge burden. If there are no charges to be levied at all in the south east Northumberland area, it would be hugely unfair,” he said.
“It goes back to the proposal we put to the council last year – if the residents of south east Northumberland just paid for the maintenance and management of their car parks that would raise in the region of £500,000. That must be revisited.
“The Federation of Small Businesses reported last year that 50 per cent of its members stated that their businesses had been affected by a lack of affordable car parking in towns. It is grossly unfair if the market towns in Northumberland end up shouldering all of the burden of car parking charges when businesses in those towns are suffering.”
A council spokeswoman said: “This is currently under discussion and no decisions have been taken yet. Any increases will be announced in due course.”