TRADERS’ leaders have repeated their welcome for a Christmas free-parking concession in Northumberland market towns ... but say its implementation was mired in chaos and confusion.
A week’s free parking was agreed in Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth and Hexham in the run-up to Christmas Day by the county council, in a bid to help boost high-street trade by attracting in more shoppers.
It was voted through despite opposition from the Liberal Democrat administration at County Hall, which warned the move would cause traffic and parking chaos at an already busy time for the towns concerned.
Now – following an official survey carried out by the council – traders’ leaders say the week’s suspension of charges was a good thing, but should have been much better managed by the authority.
In Alnwick and Berwick, the decision to suspend charges, while continuing to enforce time limits in car parks, is said to have caused widespread confusion among motorists, with many getting tickets from wardens for staying too long.
In Berwick, one shopkeeper went out and placed bags over ticket machines in the Castlegate car park to prevent people from paying, and later gaffer-taped over the coin slots on the machines.
In Alnwick, traders took it upon themselves to put notices on machines in a bid to explain the system more clearly to confused motorists.