Parking principles are under review

A TENTATIVE review of parking policy is under way in Morpeth Town Council.

Councillors will discuss the principles behind the strategy, which could pave the way for free parking, but they say no firm changes can be made until Northumberland County Council clarifies its stance

The town’s existing policy states that charges should apply for traffic management, but the county council, which is responsible for parking, says it will allow communities to decide whether charging should continue.

Now town councillor Bob Robertson has urged all members to reconsider the policy, especially as other towns will be doing likewise.

“It has ramifications if we don’t do anything in an integrated way with other towns in the county. While we don’t need the same policy as another town, it would better to be in step with them,” he said.

However, other members said a review is premature.

Coun David Parker said: “I don’t think it is possible that we can review this without the detail of what the county council is proposing. The county council is proposing possible changes, or at least consultation, and we are not at all clear about the content of that. It could be one of four or five things and we don’t know what they are.

“We cannot possibly agree to review this in any sensible way with this consultation hanging over our head.”

Coun Stuart Lishman added: “I don’t think we can formulate the heads of a strategy or go near the detail of a strategy until we have this information. It is going to be a complete waste of time.”

But member Nic Best warned that doing nothing would leave the council unable to negotiate.

“The current strategy supports car parking charges in Morpeth explicitly, but that is up for debate and to go forward with this strategy would tie our hands in any discussions with the county council,” he said.

“I propose that we ask our Planning and Transport Committee to review the principles behind the policy so that we can either re-endorse the policy or amend it, which will allow us to go forward in discussions. We wouldn’t have a detailed strategy, but we would have some principles to form the basis of negotiations.”

The proposal was agreed by eight votes to one, with two abstentions.

A county council spokeswoman said further information on the process for determining parking plans was being sent to authorities this week.

County Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson has criticised the time taken to bring in free parking, saying it is being made unnecessarily complicated and disc parking should be introduced.

However, Labour Council Leader Grant Davey said: “Our offer to the towns that currently have parking charges is clear and unambiguous. Where local communities, which include businesses, can demonstrate that free parking will benefit them then the county council will support a free parking policy.

“We don’t think Coun Jackson’s ‘one size fits all’ policy is fair and we’ve always said that local communities should have the final say over how traffic is managed in their areas.”