Parking enforcement is set to get tougher in Morpeth, drivers have been warned.
Since free parking was introduced in April, Northumberland County Council has taken a gentle approach to enforcing the restrictions to give people time to get used to the new time-disc system.
But now full enforcement will be introduced, with fines issued immediately for infringements.
In addition, the formerly free parking discs will cost £1. The discs are needed by anyone using short-stay car parks to ensure the maximum time limit is adhered to and drivers will not be able to return to the car park within four hours of leaving.
A county council spokeswoman said: “Parking discs will now cost £1 to buy and can be used to park free in all council-owned short-stay car parks.
“In all our short-stay car parks, signage is in place explaining that a parking disc will be needed and showing the locations of the nearest businesses where discs can be purchased from. We also offer a map to alternative long-stay car parks where discs are not required.
“For the initial two months, our parking enforcement officers have been issuing warnings before final fines to allow people to get used to the free parking discs. However, full enforcement will now be in place.”
Free parking was introduced following years of lobbying by the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, which argued that it was unfair that charges were applied in the north and west of the county, but not the south east.
Chairman of its Car Parking Sub-Committee Charles Robinson said: “Free parking is proving very popular. So far it is clear that it is not causing the major congestion that opponents of the system said it would, and lots of traders are reporting that they are seeing more customers and more people on the streets. The feedback is extremely positive.”
Mr Robinson said he will meet council officials to ask how long people will be given to buy a disc after parking and for clearer signage about free Sunday parking.
“These are just teething issues you get when you implement any new system,” he said.