‘No trial period’ for free parking scheme

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FREE parking in Morpeth will be permanent when it comes into effect in April, it has been claimed.

The removal of charges has been ratified by Morpeth Town Council, which decided earlier this year to implement the change on a trial basis for 12 months. Time restrictions will be managed by a disc system.

The news will be welcomed by the vast majority of people who responded to its questionnaire, as 93 per cent said more people will visit the town centre if parking is free.

But the town council is now saying the county council has decided that the measure should be introduced without a trial and so it feels members have ‘wasted well over 200 hours on the subject’.

This has not been confirmed by the Northumberland authority. It says a decision has yet to be made.

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

At a meeting of Morpeth Town Council, its car parking working group chairman, Ken Brown, said: “We were tasked by the county council in July with producing a Community Car Parking Plan by the end of November.

“This we have done, but we were informed by the county council in early November that the key decisions had already been made without discussion with the town and parish councils. One of the decisions is that there will be no trial period.

“They now render further discussion on the matter as pointless. The feeling of the working group is that we have wasted well over 200 hours on the subject.

“Had the county council made its decisions in July instead of putting up this charade of a Community Parking Plan, then a lot of time and effort could have been saved and parking without charges could have already been a reality in time for Christmas.”

Another result in the questionnaire was that 36 per cent of respondents believe there aren’t enough car parking spaces for free parking in Morpeth, compared to 52 per cent who think there are enough and 12 per cent who said they don’t know.

Coun Brown said some members of the working group had concerns about the number of spaces and it was considered that a trial period was a sensible way forward.

A county council spokeswoman said: “We have now received the reports from all the town councils following the consultations on parking arrangements.

“A report is going to the Policy Board in January and therefore no decision has yet been made about introducing free parking in all areas of the county.”