Park and ride could ease town’s parking shortage

A PERMANENT park-and-ride scheme could be the solution to Morpeth’s shortage of parking spaces.

The idea has been suggested by town and county councillor Andrew Tebbutt following questions from traders about the long-term strategy for parking arrangements in the town.

Members of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade raised the issue with officers from Northumberland County Council at the group’s last meeting.

Coun Tebbutt said that weekend park-and-ride schemes could operate from sites such as County Hall or Northgate Hospital, while a permanent long-term option could be included in development to the north of Morpeth.

“The real issue in Morpeth is that there is very little, if any, land which could be developed into a car park,” he said.

“Over the last decade there has been an approach to try to reduce the number of cars that people are using with car sharing and things like that, but frankly I don’t think it works.

“More and more people are driving cars. If you look in your own streets ten years ago there would be ten to 15 cars whereas now it is about 30.

“We have to recognise that it is having a big impact.

“I think we have to re-visit park and ride. It has been unpopular so far, but perhaps we are going to have to try to change people’s minds.

“By and large people would rather walk very short distances, but park and ride does work in some other towns.

“If we look at the development plan for Morpeth over the next ten to 15 years, in particular to the north of the town, there could be up to 2,500 to 3,000 more houses and we could look to have a proper car park up there where we could do park and ride.

“If you look at North Tyneside and around Backworth there is an enormous multi-storey car park sitting in the middle of nowhere. That is there to deal with park and ride.”

County Highways Network Manager Dick Phillips said that when Dransfield Properties tried a temporary free park-and-ride scheme from County Hall it cost around £500 a day and few people used it.

However, he said a long-term facility may work if there was sufficient publicity for drivers to learn about it.

Coun Tebbutt urged the chamber and other people interested in parking issues to contribute to Morpeth Town Council’s development of a Neighbourhood Plan, which will consider the issue.

And he said that other solutions could include a town-centre multi-storey car park.

“One of the key issues to address as part of the Neighbourhood Plan is how we manage parking in the longer term because the need for car parking is only going to increase.

“It is not going to go away and we need to find new solutions,” he said.

“There was talk a long time ago about somebody building a multi-storey car park next to the leisure centre and there was talk about going underground. That is incredibly costly and there is no way the local authority can do it, but perhaps we could talk to an investor about that. That might be the answer, but would the people of Morpeth accept it?

“There are incredibly complex issues here.”

Traders suggested that local school car parks could be opened to the public at weekends, but officers said they are too far from the town centre for people to use them.

Parking Manager Lynne Ryan is hopeful that the new Dark Lane car parks will ease the problems, but said the council will need to be flexible in the designation of spaces.

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She said: “All of our market towns struggle to identify areas of land to build car parks on, it is a real problem. Our market towns weren’t built for the amount of vehicles we have today. It does get to a point where we can’t find anywhere else to put a car park and this is one of the problems in Morpeth,

“I would hope that when the new supermarket development is open a lot of the problems we are currently experiencing will go away, but it is a problem and a very difficult one.

“In terms of improving the long-stay parking problems, if we find that the undercroft car park isn’t the answer to that then we have got to be mindful that we need to be flexible in terms of balancing the long and short-stay needs of the town.

“I don’t have an answer in terms of saying build another car park because that is not feasible.”