Removal of fees making its mark in town centre

Town traders are already benefiting from the introduction of free parking in Morpeth.

And the removal of fees is said to be attracting greater numbers of people to the town from other parts of Northumberland.

They were abolished in county council-run car parks on April 1 after business groups including the Morpeth Chamber of Trade, supported by thousands of residents in a Herald petition, argued that it was unfair for north and west-area towns to have charges when parking was free in the south-east of the county.

Thousands of free parking discs have been handed out to people. They must be displayed to ensure drivers respect the strict time limits in short-stay car parks.

Bin 21, in Bridge Street, is one of the nominated disc suppliers. Its manager, Patrick Eyres, said: “The change to free parking has definitely led to a big improvement in footfall in Morpeth town centre and our takings have gone up over the last few weeks.

“Local customers have said that they will not go shopping out of town as much as they used to and, interestingly, we’ve had more visitors to the shop and wine lounge from people living in places such as Ashington and Cramlington where parking has always been free.

“Some of the new visitors told me that they thought about spending the day in Morpeth in the past, but the parking charges put them off.”

Cynthia Fair, who runs the FH Hardy florist shop in Newgate Street, added: “I’ve had an increase in customers since the charges were removed and quite a few people have told me that they are staying in the town centre for longer.

“They will make that little bit more effort when they don’t have to pay for parking.”