Town set to trial free parking

PARKING charges in Morpeth are likely to be removed from next April.

A town council committee is recommending that the fees at all county council-managed car parks should be withdrawn and a disc system be used to regulate the short-stay facilities.

Reservations were made by some members about the impact of this measure, which would be implemented on a trial basis for 12 months.

The authority is also looking to introduce very short-stay spaces (15 to 30 minutes) at appropriate on-street locations.

If approved by the full council later this month, the new policies will go out to public consultation in October.

Planning and transport committee chairman Ken Brown said: “It should be noted that the first decision the planning and transport working group made when first discussing car parking was that this was not about party politics, it is about achieving the best solution for Morpeth.

“This was unanimously agreed and all discussions have been conducted in that manner.

“If this goes ahead, the county council will lose revenue in excess of £700,000 a year from Morpeth but that, quite frankly, is not our problem.

“Our hope is that the proposals bring many benefits such as an increased numbers of visitors to the town, improvements to the local economy and savings for workers who park in the town.

“But with so many changes happening in the town and a number of unknowns, we also have some reservations such as too many cars for too few spaces with a consequent overspill into residential areas and they may encourage excessive unnecessary use of the motor car and have an impact on traffic and road safety.

“Therefore, we expect that initially the charges will be removed for a trial for 12 months commencing on April 1, 2014.

“In addition, it’s vital that we and other stakeholders encourage workers and businesses to use the long-stay car parks on the edge of town.”

Over the last five years, the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has tirelessly campaigned for a free or equal car-parking regime throughout the county, but it was unable to persuade the then Liberal Democrat administration.

After winning the highest number of seats at May’s county council elections, Labour decided that town and parish councils in conjunction with stakeholders would determine each area’s parking policy.

Chair of the chamber’s car parking working group, Charles Robinson, said: “We’re highly delighted the town council seems to have accepted our view that the disc system is not only beneficial to residents and visitors, but will be a tremendous boost to the town’s traders.”