IT was with some surprise that I read the front of the Herald last Thursday to see the Chamber of Trade attempting to shoot Morpeth town centre in the foot by bemoaning the one-way system and demanding free parking for the duration of the works in order to improve footfall.
Only the day before (Wednesday), I had driven into the town centre at 12.30pm to find a degree of understandable delay for such major works, but very few parking spaces. At about 1.30pm, the group I was attending was joined by another lady who had great difficulty finding a parking space. Was my experience just because it was market day?
But no, on Thursday, I drove to the town centre at noon, cruised around the long-stay car parks to find no spaces whatsoever and then managed to find a space in Dacre Street car park, though it was one of no more than a handful. I walked through town and found very few spaces in the other car parks too. I walked back to my car through town just before 3pm and found things to be no different.
I also went to the town centre on Saturday afternoon and once again there were very few parking spaces to be found and whilst the traffic flow was a bit delayed, there were no problems that anyone with the slightest bit of patience could genuinely complain about in the circumstances.
It certainly took a shorter time than travelling out of Morpeth would do.
In fact, some Morpeth residents have suggested that the one-way system should be retained. I am not commenting on that suggestion, only stating the fact of its having been expressed. So I am left wondering just what free car parking for the duration of the works would achieve.
I presume it is thought that free car parking would increase traffic into the town centre, but I have to conclude that such an increase, if it took place at all, would cause havoc. It could only increase the volume of cars doing circuits of the town centre looking for parking spaces and therefore result in frustration and put people off shopping in Morpeth altogether.
The same situation would inevitably occur if we had free parking at all times throughout the year.
I believe that the current system of parking charges, with the annual pass and the free residents’ pass for specific periods is a very good method of traffic management for the town centre.
Perhaps the Chamber of Trade has not thought about how a 10-week refund could be arranged for those of us who have bothered to purchase an annual permit.
For readers who do not know about the permits, they are excellent value and can be purchased online. Go to the county council website, click on Parking, Roads and Transport, then click on Parking Permits. They are countywide so you can use them anywhere in the county.
The cost for 12 months is £110 (£82.50 for concessions); for six months £60 (£45 for concessions); for three months £40 (£30 for concessions). For people who regularly support Morpeth’s traders and services this is very good value.
The Chamber of Trade would do better to advertise that Morpeth is open for business as usual and, please note, that my husband has neither written nor influenced this letter in any way!
The Kylins, Morpeth