CALLS have been made for a residents’ revolution to stand up for Morpeth.
The rallying call has been sounded by members of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade following months of turmoil in the town.
About 200 people turned out earlier this month to voice their anger about the introduction of traffic lights at Telford Bridge.
But business leaders say that is just one of many issues causing frustration and it is time for residents to take the lead.
Chamber member Les Sage said: “It is time Morpeth looked at getting a ratepayers’ association. At the moment the chamber of trade is looked on to solve everybody’s problems. We need another group of people who can shout up.
“For everything that happens in the town, everybody says ‘what are you going to do about it?’ and it is getting a bit sickening. It is about time the public had a chance to do something about it.
“We do need another body apart from the chamber.”
Businesses said that the town needs support more than ever as retail and leisure expansion plans are unveiled for Cramlington, which already takes trade from Morpeth due to free parking.
And local photographer Ken Stait said the time could be right for residents to stand up and be counted.
“To have 200 people turning up at the Town Hall for a public meeting, it really does make you start to realise that the townspeople of Morpeth do feel as though people in authority are trying to test Morpeth,” he said.
“We have a shoppers’ parking permit that nobody knows about and the council is going to keep quiet, we have a set of traffic lights that are creating traffic jams at non-peak times, we have 27 traffic wardens, which is an army built by the council for on-street parking enforcement that is persecuting people, and we are in the deepest recession for a generation.
“I just feel as though the town is really being stress-tested.
“I think the people of Morpeth really stood up loud and proud at that public meeting and I think it is a good time for the general public to have a voice.
“I do think that we are just put down as a bunch of moaning traders. It would be great if the people had a forum where their views could be heard.”
Chamber Chairman John Beynon said that public support is needed as the business community is getting no help from Northumberland County Council.
He said: “Since the start of the roadworks and all the work that the chamber has been doing to start to promote Morpeth we have been getting so many positive comments from the public. They do appreciate the chamber, but we can only do so much.
“It is annoying when we are doing all this work and the county just seems to be kicking us back down again.”
Particular concerns were raised that the council’s new civil enforcement officers are being too strict.
Mr Beynon said: “The council hasn’t given us free parking. The traffic wardens had to come in because there was a lot of chaos on the main street, but they do have to show a little bit of common sense and change their attitude.”
Chamber member Lynn Oxley said she was incensed when the singer providing Market Place entertainment on Saturday had to stop to move her car to avoid getting a parking ticket, while the officer did not take action against a wedding car parked in a taxi rank across the road.
She said: “I don’t want the bride to get a ticket on her wedding day, or the business billed, or the people we are bringing in to try to encourage trade in the town being billed, but why is it that one car gets left and ourselves, who are trying our hardest to improve our town, have to suffer?”
Meanwhile, Charles Robinson said the new traffic lights are still a problem and questioned how much research had been done before they were installed.
He also complained that businesses were told the town centre roadworks earlier this year could not be carried out in the evening or at night due to the proximity of residential properties, yet works have been taking place at Castle Bank in the evening.
“I have a problem with the credibility of information coming out of County Hall,” he said.
The Northumberland Parking Strategy states that funeral and wedding cars will be exempt from penalty charges.
A council spokeswoman said: “Enforcement will be carried out by civil enforcement officers for both on and off-street enforcement as a fully integrated service in accordance with the prevailing legislation.
“The consequence is that those who do not comply with the requirements of the Traffic Regulation Orders may be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice.”
She added: “The resurfacing works at Castle Bank are being undertaken overnight to minimise disruption.
“The works at this point can be easily removed to allow traffic to use the road during the daytime and indeed during the works themselves.
“In contrast, the works undertaken in Morpeth town centre could not be removed to allow traffic to use the road and the site was too close to residential properties to allow overnight working.”