POTENTIAL changes to Morpeth’s parking policy will need approval at county level, town councillors have learned.
A meeting between them and county council officers took place at the Town Hall so they could ask questions and receive important information before putting forward recommendations.
The Northumberland authority’s administration, which was formed in May following elections, has said that towns where residents and visitors pay for parking can draw up their own plans and remove the charges if they wish.
As a result, Morpeth Town Council is looking into whether or not to change its current policy, which states that parking fees should apply for traffic management purposes.
A working group, formed of the authority’s Planning and Transport Committee, has been set up to discuss the options and suggest some potential solutions.
Committee Chairman Ken Brown reported to the full council about the meeting with county officers.
“On the instruction of the leader of the county council, its staff are only allowed to provide support in the development of a car parking solution,” he said.
“Parking remains the responsibility of the county council, but their professional experts in this field have been instructed not to offer suggestions or recommendations to the town and parish councils who have been tasked with drawing up Community Parking Plans.
“On the other hand, they say if they don’t agree that any plan we produce is fit for purpose, they will intervene and implement a plan of their own.
“The officers said that they would need to use more resources if a disc solution is introduced for managing parking time and it will not necessarily be paid for by the county council.
“The approved parking solutions will be implemented on April 1, 2014, although it wasn’t explained why it couldn’t be sooner.
“And they did not say exactly how free parking will be paid for or what happens with the revenue should charges remain in place.”
As well as the update, the town council was given a booklet of facts and figures about parking in Morpeth which included car parking income, enforcement statistics and place-specific data.
Once the working group has looked into the issue, it is expected that the Planning and Transport Committee will make recommendations to full council in September.
In the meantime, it has sent a letter to the county council urging it to include the town authority in discussions about any parking issues while the review is on-going following complaints about parking in residential streets.
Members of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade were in attendance at the full council meeting to observe proceedings.
It led a campaign, along with business groups in other towns where charges apply, for free parking to be introduced across Northumberland.
They urged the previous county council administration to make it a level playing field as there are no charges to stop in public spaces in south east area towns such as Ashington, Cramlington and Blyth.
In 2010, almost 3,000 people signed up to the Morpeth Herald and Northumberland Gazette’s joint campaign calling for car parking charges to be made fairer across the county.