PLANS to cut or freeze parking charges in Northumberland in order to boost its recession-hit communities have been backed by ruling councillors.
Northumberland County Council’s Liberal Democrat executive yesterday agreed a series of measures aimed at helping to avoid any further damage to local businesses.
A report agreed by members contained three main recommendations:
:: Dropping previously agreed plans to raise an additional £500,000 by raising parking charges in towns such as Alnwick, Morpeth and Hexham;
:: Reducing parking fees in Berwick, where historically motorists have faced higher charges than in other market towns;
:: Abolishing Sunday parking charges in Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham, and allowing parking to remain free on Sundays in Morpeth.
The moves follow discussions by executive members about proposals to save £547,000 over two years by raising and harmonising parking fees across the county.
They came on the back of recent calls by Labour county councillors for parking fees to be scrapped in Northumberland, and by the Conservative group for parking to be free for all county residents.
Lib Dem bosses said axing charges completely is not sustainable, but increasing them in towns such as Alnwick and Morpeth has the potential to damage local business as harsh economic times continue.
The plans will result in charges in some Berwick car parks being slashed from £1.10p an hour to 60p, and from £2.40 for three hours to £1.50.
The reductions there – affecting the Castlegate, Quayside, Parade, Waugh Place, Woolmarket, Wallace Green, Coxons Lane and Foul Field car parks – will cost the council £162,000 a year in lost income.
Charges will remain on Bank Holidays, other than on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
The plans also involve increasing the cost of the county’s annual parking permit – allowing holders to park free in all council-owned car parks – from £110 to £130.
At yesterday’s meeting, the executive member for corporate resources Andrew Tebbutt said of the annual permits: “I still think £130 or £117 for concessions to park in any car park in Northumberland where there are charges made by the county, is incredible value for money.
“I will be strongly recommending that and the shoppers permit to members of the public.”
Conservative members had said the measures were a damp squib and that they were too little too late.
However, they were welcomed by Berwick Chamber of Trade, which said reduced fees and the axing of charges on Sundays would be great news for the town. All the changes are expected to be introduced in the new year.