Extra car parking is needed to cope with peak demands in a number of the county’s key towns, including Morpeth, comprehensive studies have confirmed.
And a range of locations for new car parks have been suggested in the WYG report, which was commissioned by Northumberland County Council.
Work is now being undertaken to seek the views and opinions of the local county councillors, town councils and other key stakeholders on the findings and in Morpeth, this will be fed into the emerging masterplan for the town.
Based on current levels of use and predicted growth in demand, it has been estimated that the additional capacity needed within the next couple of years in Morpeth is 146 spaces.
And the longer-term forecasts have produced an estimated figure of 587 additional spaces by 2031.
The report brings together all the suggestions for car park locations.
They are: Multi-storey car park in Allery Banks, close to the railway station and Mafeking Roundabout, Morpeth First School in Goosehill once it is relocated to Loansdean, former library site, decking of Stanley Terrace North car park, decking of the St James car park, Royal Mail depot, former British Telecom building and extra parking at the railway station
Morpeth First School is highlighted as ‘a good location for town centre parking, with a short walk over the river bridge into the town centre and vehicle access off the A192 would be possible’.
The report says that there are an estimated 1,673 off-street parking spaces in the town centre study area – some spaces are unmarked so it was necessary to estimate the number – and the streets that were included in the study area survey contain an estimated 170 parking spaces.
Variable message signs (VMS) are mentioned as a way of helping, as they would tell drivers which car parks are full and which still have spaces available, although WYG says ‘VMS can be expensive to install and maintain, so careful consideration would be needed whether it would be worth the cost’.
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “We are committed to finding a workable solution to the county’s parking issues that has the support of residents, businesses, shoppers and visitors.
“People are getting increasingly frustrated at not being able to find car parking spaces in these towns, so doing nothing is not a viable option.
“However, it is important we recognise that due to the historic nature of our towns, the availability of suitable development sites for extra car parking is limited and there is no easy fix which will sort out the county’s parking issues.
“Now the reports are back our next steps are to discuss the findings with the local county councillors, town councils and other key stakeholders so that we can agree what actions are acceptable and should be taken forward to help meet the particular needs of each town.
“We also welcome comments from other town and parish councils in the local area.
“We want to be clear we are definitely ruling out any county-wide reintroduction of charges. However, if individual communities are strongly in favour of some localised charges to support investment in car parking capacity and feel their areas would benefit from it, we will be happy to talk to them about it.
“Whilst these studies focus on four of our main market towns – the others included were Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham – we are aware that parking issues are a problem in many parts of the county and we are committed to working with all of our town and parish councils and local communities to find workable solutions.
“Ultimately, we want all our communities to prosper and have the right balance of sustainable parking and this is the next step in making that happen.”
Other suggestions to help ease the pressure include converting some long-stay parking to short-stay, promoting sustainable transport options and reviewing on-street car parking arrangements.
Coun David Bawn, county councillor for Morpeth North, said: “I commend all the hard work that has gone into this report and the next step is to tie this information into the emerging Morpeth masterplan so we can make sure there is suitable parking provision for the town in the coming years.
“Residents will be able to see some of our ideas on this in the next masterplan consultation on February 9 in Morpeth Town Hall.”
To access the report, go to www.northumberland.gov.uk/Highways/Parking.aspx#parkingstudies