Play Santa to shoppers, council urged

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COUNCIL chiefs have been urged to give a free parking Christmas gift to Northumberland shoppers.

A week of free parking has traditionally been offered in Alnwick and Berwick in the run-up to Christmas to boost trade.

Now Northumberland Conservatives are calling for the offer to be reinstated and extended to include Morpeth, Hexham and Corbridge.

The group has written to county council Leader Jeff Reid but no reply has been received so a motion will be put to full council next week.

Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “We refuse to be fobbed off on this issue.

“The current situation is totally unfair, with high charges for car parking driving people away from shopping locally. The Mary Portas review of the future of our high streets blamed parking charges for much of the decline of local trade. Yet the situation in Northumberland is even worse with charging in some towns and free parking in others, creating unfair competition.

“The week before Christmas is critical for local traders. Let us see if the Christmas spirit will prevail at County Hall.”

However, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade was told by council officials last week that no free period will be offered as the authority has already extended the shoppers’ permit countywide and recently decided against introducing Sunday parking charges to Morpeth.