Judging by the Easter weekend, the combination of fine weather, free parking and the knock-on effect of Robson Green’s ITV programme Tales From Northumberland seem to have had the desired effect.
Desired, that is, by some of us.
I am not sure how long residents will put up with clogged roads, busy towns, queues and tourists everywhere before we yearn for the days of The Secret Kingdom, when very few knew north Northumberland even existed. It was merely somewhere to pass through en route to Scotland, or Yorkshire if you were Scottish.
It was the place where travellers would hold their breath and hope they didn’t break down or get a puncture before they hit civilisation and dual-carriageways again.
Thankfully, us locals all knew exactly what treasures were hidden within but kind of kept it to ourselves! Now that our economy relies so heavily on tourism, we must welcome everyone with open arms to trample all over our ancient castles, stunning countryside and wonderful beaches.
But I am not convinced that free parking will help encourage visitors in the long run.
I was all in favour of equalisation of parking policy across the county and am pleased we now have that. If it were free in the south east, then why not everywhere else.
However, free parking has its flaws. The long-term car parks are likely to be taken over by workers or residents who might otherwise have found spaces throughout the town. Also, as long as The Alnwick Garden and other attractions are charging to park, their customers are likely to raid the free council car parks first, yet may never venture into the town.
I have already noticed that finding a space for your wagon is proving more of a problem than usual. Great for the economy of our little corner but not so good for stress levels!
If we are going to welcome more folk, then the infrastructure should be there to cope. More car parks, or even park-and-ride schemes in the larger places, will become a priority.
On a final note, I thought we were supposed to be discouraging vehicle usage to combat global warming – shouldn’t we therefore be introducing car-park charges across the county?