TRADERS’ leaders have welcomed a decision to provide a week’s free car parking in the run-up to Christmas – and rejected claims that it will cause traffic chaos in their market towns.
Motorists visiting Berwick, Alnwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Corbridge will not have to pay to park in the seven days starting Tuesday, December 18 after county councillors voted 23-22 this week in favour of the festive concession.
Conservative and Labour members joined forces to approve the Tory motion – despite warnings from Liberal Democrat leaders that not requiring drivers to buy and display tickets will make it impossible for wardens to enforce existing time limits in car parks.
It was also claimed free parking is not required in a week when car parks are traditionally full and shops at their busiest.
Yesterday Carlo Biagioni, chairman of Alnwick chamber of trade, said: “We feel exactly the opposite and I don’t know where the Lib Dems get these ideas from.
“Every time we have had free parking at Christmas in the past, both here and in Berwick, it has always given the town a boost, and I believe that will be the case again this year.
“We are looking at putting on a couple of events in Alnwick and possibly a 10% off promotion to capitalise on the week’s free parking.
“We want to see more cars in the town because things are very tough for small, independent retailers.”
John Beynon, who chairs the Morpeth chamber, said: “Any concession like this we are really thankful for.
“It’s just disappointing it took the Conservatives and Labour, and not the Lib Dem administration, to do it.
“It is great news because anything that can boost trade and bring people into the town is welcome. We have asked for assurances from the parking people at County Hall that time limits will still be policed in the car parks, although we understand this has not been a problem at Christmas in Alnwick or Berwick in the past.”
John Haswell, Berwick chamber of trade chairman, said: “I believe this will be a fantastic thing for the town centre. The retail park here is packed because parking is free, and a week’s free parking in the town is bound to bring a boost for traders.
“I don’t think traffic management will be a problem. We have six traffic enforcement officers covering Berwick who are very efficient.”
Council leaders have said they will do what they can to enforce parking time limits during the free week, but claim there are insufficient resources to do it properly.