Come clean over parking, council chiefs are urged

COUNCIL chiefs have been urged to come clean on their plans for the future of car parking charges.

An open invitation has been issued to the Liberal Democrat party, which makes up the Executive of Northumberland County Council, by the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade for members to attend one of its future meetings.

Earlier this month, the county’s Conservative group unveiled proposals that would allow Northumberland residents to park for free in council-run car parks once they have paid a one-off fee to register their vehicles.

But Executive Member Andrew Tebbutt, who represents the Morpeth Kirkhill ward, said they would not work because they would put an even greater burden on council taxpayers and do nothing to address congestion problems.

So the Chamber now wants to hear from the group about its views on the issue.

At the moment, fees are levied in Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham, but motorists can park for free in south east Northumberland towns.

Chairman of the business group John Beynon said: “We read comments in the Herald from Coun Tebbutt that he was not allowed to attend our meeting where Conservative group leader Peter Jackson told us about its proposals.

“But he did not ask me or Charles Robinson (Chairman of the Chamber’s Car Parking Sub-Committee) and we were the only two people with the authority to decide whether or not to allow someone to attend.

“Anyway, we have written to him and we will be writing to council Leader Jeff Reid along with Morpeth’s four county councillors to invite them to one of our future meetings.

“We want them to come along and explain in detail their position on car parking charges or permits.”

The Chamber supports the Conservative plans, which would see charges applied to council-run car parks countywide, but residents would be eligible to apply for two permit discs.

These would be registered to specific vehicles for a charge of £15 each, which would enable them to park for free all day, subject to the time limits on individual car parks.

Visitors would still have to pay in order to meet the £1.2million running costs of the facilities.

Coun Tebbutt said he would be ‘delighted’ to speak to the group about the issue.

“We would explain the thinking behind our car parking strategy and why we want to do certain things, as well as why we do not support some other proposals,” he added.

At a meeting of the Chamber on Monday, members indicated that they would also want the Lib Dems to give detailed reasons as to why they are against the Tory proposals.

Charles Sellers said: “In my considered opinion this is a decent idea and so I want them to give us some facts and figures to say why it shouldn’t be adopted.

“Some of the reasons I have heard so far are nonsensical.”

As the Lib Dem group is a minority administration, proposals would need to be supported by at least two political parties.

Consultation has recently been carried out with holders of the Morpeth Shoppers’ Permit, which allows free parking periods for holders at quieter parts of the day.

One of the options being considered by the Executive is extending it countywide.

An all-party car parking working group will meet for the first time on October 7 and the results of the consultation will be discussed.

Meanwhile, the Morpeth and District Community Forum has confirmed it has been added to the list of stakeholder groups that will be asked for their input when a proposed strategy is unveiled.