FOUR key parking priorities have been set out by Morpeth traders in a meeting with senior council officials.
The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has long been campaigning for a fair, equal charging system for Northumberland’s car parks.
But at the meeting with Northumberland County Council officers last week members set aside their main parking issue to highlight other concerns, such as the need for adequate signage, more long-stay spaces, shoppers’ bays near Newgate Street and promotion of the countywide shoppers’ permit.
Chairman of the group’s Car Parking Sub-Committee Charles Robinson said that existing signage directing visitors to car parks is inadequate and there should be clear signs at major gateways to the town centre showing what car parks are available, the length of stay provided and directions.
Chamber members welcomed the provision of a temporary long-stay car park at the former Davidsons of Morpeth site at Goosehill, but Mr Robinson said that a permanent strategy is still needed.
“One of our policies is to try to encourage workers to park in peripheral car parks and shoppers to park in the centre. The county council is aware of that and I hope we can work with it to develop a strategy to make that happen,” he said.
“We welcome the temporary car park at the Davidsons’ site because supporting the needs of workers and shoppers is important to the success of the town.
“There is a shortage of long-stay parking spaces so we have to develop strategies that free up short-stay spaces for shoppers, but also give adequate provision for workers.”
Mr Robinson also called for talks with council officers about the lack of shoppers’ parking near Newgate Street and suggested that part or all of St James’s’ car park could be made short-stay.
He said: “Newgate Street ceased to be the heart of the town with the re-development of Sanderson Arcade and with the closure of Manchester Street and Back Riggs car parks, Newgate Street has suffered most.
“There is a proposal to try to free up short-term spaces in St James’s car park to try to get pedestrian flows back down Newgate Street.
“If we are not careful I can see a situation where Newgate Street will be non-retail in the not too distant future. It is a real concern and the chamber recognises a need to discuss with the county council how we can overcome the problem.”
Finally, Mr Robinson called for more promotion of the shoppers’ permit, which allows holders to park free during specified quieter periods of the day. He suggested that leaflets could be delivered alongside Council Tax notices.
Council Parking Manager Lynne Ryan said she was happy to discuss all of the points, but would be reluctant to change the designation of St James’s’ car park until there are more long-stay spaces available at the Dark Lane supermarket development, and she said that promoting the shoppers’ permit alongside council tax letters could be confusing.
“We looked at promoting permits through council tax notification before and the feeling was that people might think they had paid for something through their council tax payment. People might get confused about why we had done that so we have to be careful,” she said.
Ms Ryan said that new signage will soon be erected in car parks that will raise awareness of the permits.
She said: “One of the things we feel is important is to display what permits can be used in each car park, where the countywide permit is valid and where the shoppers’ permit can be used. It will clearly state on the sign that you can use the shoppers’ permit there. That will raise awareness to people. If they don’t know about that they are going to read about it on the sign.”
The officer said that long-stay provision will be improved with the opening of the Dark Lane car park, which will also see new roadside signage introduced.
“We have had quite a lot of discussion about signage over the past few weeks because we are aware of the imminent completion of the development,” she said.
“We are more than keen to have that open discussion and involve the chamber, the town council and local stakeholders.
“One of the key things is the importance of signage where we direct people to come off Telford Bridge, whether we keep the parking signage separate to the road signage and how we integrate that in the best way to direct people through the town to the appropriate short and long-stay car parks.”
She added: “It is important that parking has to work for the town. This is why we have to be flexible and have these discussions to make sure it works right for the residents, the workers and the shoppers of the town.”