A CALL for five market towns in Northumberland to be given a week’s free car parking in the run-up to Christmas would be a “recipe for chaos”, it was claimed yesterday.
Conservative councillors will tomorrow ask the county council to agree to the suspension of parking fees for seven days prior to Christmas, to help boost trade for shopkeepers in Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Corbridge.
Tories say the concession has been a tradition in previous festive periods – and that Christmas trade is vital to the survival of many market town businesses.
A motion put forward by group leader, Peter Jackson, will be debated by the full council at tomorrow’s meeting in Morpeth. Yesterday a senior member of the Liberal Democrat administration said the move would cost the authority about £40,000 at a time when it has just agreed a raft of new car parking concessions for the market towns.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt said removing charges for a week – with motorists not having to buy tickets to put on their cars – would make it virtually impossible to police time limits in car parks.
He said: “This suggestion of Coun Jackson’s is a recipe for chaos. All he is inviting the market towns to have is complete congestion, with people not moving their cars, which will drive more people away than it will encourage to come in. Without people buying parking tickets there is no way for our attendants to monitor whether motorists are staying longer than the time limits. It is just not properly thought through.”
The council’s executive agreed last month to drop plans to increase parking fees in the market towns, reduce charges in Berwick, abolish Sunday charges in Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham, and allow parking to remain free on Sundays in Morpeth.
Charles Robinson, who chairs Morpeth chamber of trade’s car parking sub-committee, said he didn’t feel the town would benefit from a week’s free parking at Christmas, when the car parks are full in any case.
“If we are going to have a parking amnesty, what would be far more effective and useful would be some free parking in January or February, which are notoriously quiet months in terms of trade. That would benefit traders more, because Morpeth has no trouble attracting people in at Christmas.”
Last night Coun Jackson said it would be no more difficult to police a week’s free parking than it currently is to enforce the existing shoppers’ permit, which allows holders time-limited free parking for two periods each day.
“This would cost about £40,000 which, across the county, shows how petty the administration is being on this issue. This is something which has been successful in Alnwick and Berwick in the past at Christmas, and is something the traders are asking us to do because of the unfair parking regime which they have struggled with for years.
“I am not suggesting that people should ignore the current parking time limits, and we have 26 parking attendants who can enforce that,” he added.