Free parking is coming to town

Charles Robinson, George Williams and  John Beynon   celebrate the removal of parking charges.
Charles Robinson, George Williams and John Beynon celebrate the removal of parking charges.

IT’S official – charges for stopping in Morpeth’s public town centre car parks are being removed from April 1.

Northumberland County Council’s policy board gave the parking plans from towns and villages across the county the green light at its meeting on Tuesday.

In Morpeth, a disc system will be introduced to manage the time limits in the short-stay facilities.

Last July, the recently formed Labour administration (following May’s elections) wrote to certain parish and town councils. It gave them the chance to produce community plans tailored to their areas and they had the option to make parking free.

These authorities consulted local residents and businesses before submitting their proposals.

The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade started its campaign for the introduction of a fair system of car parking for the whole of Northumberland in September 2008.

Chairman of its car parking sub committee, Charles Robinson, said: “The news it is now official that Morpeth (as well as Berwick, Alnwick, Hexham and others) will be getting free parking from April 1 is tremendous news for the town, businesses and residents alike.

“It is disappointing that is has taken a change of administration at County Hall to achieve a system that is fair to all towns in the county, but now is the time to look forward and after the disruption caused in recent years by flooding, major road works in 2012 and again this year, the introduction of free parking in a few weeks’ time comes as a timely boost.

“Between now and the beginning of April, we will work closely with the county council and Morpeth Town Council to ensure that the new disc system will be introduced with the minimum of disruption, as well as spending time encouraging and explaining the need for shop workers to use the peripheral car parks to make sure there is space available in the central car parks for shoppers.”

The two local authorities will meet later this month to decide how the disc system will work and be administered and agree locations for new on-street very short-stay locations in the town centre.

Coun Ken Brown, chairman of the town council’s car parking working group, said: “The approval of our scheme is excellent news and we’re excited about bringing forward parking without charges from April 1.

“Once it is up and running, we will be looking closely at how the system is working, including the enforcement aspect, and hopefully the county council will make some tweaks in places if required.”

The Northumberland authority has assured residents that the enforcement of time limits and other restrictions, such as parking outside of marked bays, will remain in place.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, added: “We believe free parking has real benefits for residents, businesses and visitors, but we left the decision to local communities.”