A PROTEST march is being considered as the dispute over parking – and ice cream – in a Northumberland town hots up.
Traders in Hexham are enraged by Northumberland County Council’s new zero-tolerance parking policy, which they claim is driving away trade.
Numerous people who previously enjoyed a laissez-faire policy have received parking tickets for stopping briefly on yellow lines to nip into shops, and are turning their backs on the town and its businesses.
The conflict has spiralled since April, when Northumberland County Council brought in civil enforcement and a team of wardens after taking over parking control from the police.
Alan Philipson, owner of Hexhamshire Ices, was thrust into the spotlight when he received a parking ticket for his ice cream van – after 37 years of parking at The Sele in Hexham town centre.
He claims he was not consulted over changes to parking restriction times, which were switched to 8am to 5pm.
More than 2,000 people have now signed a petition supporting the 61-year-old ice cream seller, who is adamantly refusing to pay his £35 fine.
Protest organisers have fired off a list of Freedom of Information questions to Northumberland county transport chiefs, asking why timings on parking signs in Hexham were altered without consultation, what the effect of the changes on small businesses is expected to be, what discussions were held at council level, and demanding to know the salaries and allowances of leading staff.
Yesterday, as schools returned after the summer holidays, Mr Philipson was again in his regular position outside Sele First School in Hexham.
Before taking up his spot, he said: “The protest march is being considered, and while it would be focused on everybody, my case would be a main focus.
“Mobile vendors around Northumberland could bring their vans in, though first we have to go round the shops to gauge support for it. I am still refusing to pay my ticket, and we are still waiting to hear from the ticketing office.
“Then it will be up to a court to say whether the signs have been put up legally or illegally.”
As public backing for Mr Philipson continues to grow, he said: “Ironically, this has done me quite a lot of good because it has gone around and people are coming to see me and give their support.”
I am still refusing to pay my ticket, and we are waiting to hear from the ticketing office