Car parking charges will be scrapped in Northumberland’s towns and villages this year - but not at all of them.
Northumberland County Council’s Labour administration announced following May’s elections that it would be offering all town and parish councils the charge to remove charges from car parks and on-street parking places, in keeping with a pre-poll pledge.
Town and parish councils were written to in June and asked to come up with community parking plans, to be reported back to the county.
A report goes before the authority’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee next week informing councillors of the responses of the parish and town councils.
Towns like Alnwick, Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham are proposing to remove charges, along with the “majority” of settlements but parish councils at Corbridge, Craster, Holy Island, Newton by the Sea and Seahouses have all asked to keep them.
A report to Tuesday’s meeting states that Craster’s response claims “removing charges will inevitably increase demand” and that the village car park would therefore become full earlier in the day.
Similarly, Holy Island says retaining pay and display “is important to managing parking demand on the island.” At Newton by the Sea, councillors also feel free parking would “exacerbate an already difficult problem.”
The report continues: “This is on the basis that if parking was free, visitor numbers would increase and as the number of visitors is already difficult to manage, there needs to be charging to achieve a higher level of control in the demand for parking spaces.”
At Seahouses, the committee will be told that the parish council is of the view that free parking “cannot be fully offered” as a payment is required to landowner the Lord Crewe Trust for the lease of the site.
The report adds: “The parish council also feels that free parking would have a detrimental effect on North Sunderland Harbour Commission which relies on the income generated from their parking charges in the harbour area.”
Last night, parish chairman Geoff Stewart added: “We could not have a big free car park and the harbour charging. The harbour is the centre of the village. The harbour here benefits the village, it is where all the folk come from.”
The Journal reported in October that Alnwick was seeking to remove charges from April on a 12-month trial basis, while Morpeth and Hexham were looking at similar year long experiments and Berwick had supported the move to free parking. Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We wanted to leave the decision to local communities on whether or not to introduce free car parking.
“They have now given us their views. While we believe there are real benefits to free parking we understand and appreciate that for traffic management reasons some communities may be unable to take up the offer.”