Parking disc roll-out questioned at council

Concern about parking disc availability has been voiced by town councillors.

Free parking was introduced to Morpeth last month following years of campaigning by local businesses.

However, drivers must now display discs in their vehicles to ensure they do not overstay car park time limits.

Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee says the system is generally working well and about 40,000 discs have been distributed.

But some members were concerned that not enough outlets are offering them.

Coun David Clark said: “The chamber of trade has got a list of where to direct people to get discs from, but there are only about eight places in the whole of the town, and two or three of them are associated with the council.

“It is a terrible take-up and even more disappointing considering the chamber is claiming victory for the free parking coming in.”

However, Coun Nic Best, who is Secretary of the chamber, says that availability has been restricted as demand has outstripped supply.

“There were a number of shops which were keen to distribute the discs, but because of the huge demand and shortage of supply the county council limited the supply. Discs weren’t available and the people who were keen to distribute them initially got fed up,” he said.

“It is a matter of failure of supply rather than a lack of enthusiasm.”

The time discs are currently being given away free, but a charge of up to £1 will apply at most distribution points from June 1.

Coun Bob Robertson said the distributor list should be reviewed after that point.

He also warned that enforcement of restrictions will become stricter in the coming weeks.

People must abide by time limits and they will not be able to return to a short-stay car park within four hours of leaving a space. There will be a two-minute observation period before a fine is issued for parking on double or single yellow lines, and instant fines for double parking or parking next to a dropped footway.

Coun Robertson said: “If people are unsure about the rules the county council website has all the information. If people don’t display a disc they are going to get a ticket. The council will also be enforcing the regulations in terms of the no-return period of four hours.”

Some councillors said there is confusion about when restrictions apply.

Coun Alison Byard said: “I have had a complaint from one resident who had a parking ticket on Bank Holiday Monday because it wasn’t mentioned on the signs that the time restriction applied. There is confusion about that so I hope the county council is going to address it.”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “Signs state Monday to Saturday so this means that regardless of whether it’s a bank holiday the only day the restrictions don’t apply is on a Sunday.

“We have a good stock of parking discs, however we have been working with the town council and chamber of trade to identify the ‘key’ businesses that are outlets for the discs. All our signage tells the car park users which council offices and businesses have the discs and the chamber of trade was going to inform all businesses of the outlet list so that they could tell the public where to get them from if asked.”