ROAD traffic wardens are returning to Morpeth from next spring.
Northumberland County Council is to take over the enforcement of on-street parking regulations from Northumbria Police in April.
This move has been welcomed by residents, organisations and groups, although one councillor is a little concerned about how the new enforcement officers will operate.
Previously, the police employed traffic wardens to carry out enforcement across the county, regarding issues such as restricted parking areas and obstructive parking.
But it has not employed wardens in Northumberland since the start of the year, with ordinary officers looking out for illegal parking instead.
The county council has been planning to take on this responsibility for the last two years and the Department for Transport announced this week that the authority’s application for Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) has been accepted.
Public anger over the situation has mounted in recent months, with both residents and traders unhappy that parking restrictions in residential areas and main streets are not being enforced as often as they should.
Chairman of Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee Graeme Trotter, said: “Illegal parking is a big issue in Morpeth, particularly in Newgate Street, and hopefully this change will mean that there is more enforcement across the town centre.
“This will help the traffic flow and management, as well as some of the pavements which are in a poorer condition than others because cars keep parking on them.
“The news will also please resident permit holders because there have been major problems with illegal parking in permit-only areas.
Steve and Julie Lum currently buy four permits, at a cost of £15 each per year, for their own use and for guests at their Castle View B&B in Dacre Street.
Mrs Lum said: “I’m delighted that this application has gone through, I only wish it had happened earlier.
“There are many days where we and our guests have to use the pay and display car park because the residents-only area is blocked with vehicles that are not supposed to be there.
“I’m confident that the council wardens will regularly give out tickets to the illegal parkers because they are hot on anyone staying longer than they are allowed in off-street car parks.
“We still have other issues that we hope the county council will address in the future.
“There are only two little signs informing people at the top end of Dacre Street that it is resident permits only and we would like them to be bigger and more prominent.
“And we believe it would be fairer for all of the residential side of Dacre Street to be permit only.
“The opposite side of the road can remain up to two hours for all motorists.”
Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade Chairman John Beynon is also encouraged by this development.
“We don’t want to stop people who are legitimately parking on the street, but it’s important that those who park on yellow lines and in areas they are not supposed to be are punished,” he said.
“In the town centre, some motorists are causing problems for everyone else by parking for hours in bays where you are only meant to stop for a few minutes to drop off or pick up something or someone and getting away with it.
“It has been pleasing to see the police giving out more tickets in recent weeks, but it will be good to have dedicated county council officers looking out for people who flout the regulations.”
Ponteland has also suffered from problems with illegal parking, particularly in Thornhill Road where Richard Coates Middle School and Ponteland First School are located.
Yellow lines and zig-zags are already in place and county councillor for Ponteland North Richard Dodd is funding an extension of the yellow lines.
He said: “To tackle the issue effectively you need all the ducks in place in terms of engineering, education and enforcement, so hopefully this change will lead to greater enforcement in Ponteland and across the county.
“The majority of parents park away from the schools and walk their child, but there are a determined few who continue to park illegally.
“I would like to think that when the county council takes on responsibility for on-street parking, they won’t get away with it any more.
“The wardens will need to be wary because they will play a game of cat and mouse by trying to find alternative residential streets to park their car.”
But he added: “It will be interesting to see if the council has to earn some money from parking enforcement.
“There’s a big difference between officers having to meet a target number of tickets and keeping the traffic moving.”
The county council will begin recruitment of a team of enforcement officers and supervisors in January.
Executive Member for Infrastructure and Environment Coun Isabel Hunter said: “We have cleared the final hurdle in our CPE application. It is tremendous news as it will allow us to unblock our streets of illegal parking.
“We will be running a publicity campaign in the New Year so that everyone is aware of what the changes will mean and we can have a smooth transition in parking enforcement arrangements.”
Police will retain the power to enforce obstructive parking.