Free Christmas parking returns

A FESTIVE free-parking arrangement has been welcomed by traders in Morpeth.

Northumberland County Council members have agreed to remove charges in all council-managed on-street parking places and off-street car parks where fees apply between this Monday and Thursday, December 26, following a motion by the Conservative group.

Traffic congestion will continue to be regulated by the enforcement of the existing time restrictions to ensure turnover of short-stay parking spaces.

The Labour administration at County Hall is set to introduce free parking in Morpeth and other market towns such as Alnwick and Hexham in April.

John Beynon of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade said: “We welcome this decision by the county council, as it will be a great boost for our businesses in the run up to Christmas.

“There is a longer period of free parking compared to last year and this time round the authority’s administration supports it, so hopefully there will be more promotion this year and the market towns should fare even better as a result.

“This upcoming period will get the public introduced to the removal of charges from April and we expect that it will show how much the long-term measure will benefit traders in Morpeth.”

Last year, free parking was available between December 18 and 24. Councillors voted 23-22 to waive charges after a dramatic debate.

Conservative group leader on the county council, Peter Jackson, said: “As the current administration has taken its time to bring forward free parking for the whole of Northumberland, we wanted to make sure that it was in place for a decent period up to Christmas to support traders in market towns where charges currently apply.

“It has worked well in the past and those who said it would cause traffic chaos in Morpeth were proved wrong.

“Once again, it will help to stop people going to other towns or outside Northumberland to do their festive shopping.”

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We hope that this will help to support local businesses and boost trade during the run up to Christmas.”