Alan Castle: Charges should be equal or abolished

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I HAVE discovered the cost of ‘free’ parking in the rural parts of Northumberland.

As you will all now know by now, unless you have been spending a considerable amount of time away from home, county parking charges are imposed everywhere except in the former council areas of Wansbeck and Blyth Valley.

While they park free, it costs motorists up to £1.10 per hour to park in Hexham, Alnwick, Morpeth, Berwick and anywhere else in those areas where the council has a car park.

This is not a new subject and it keeps coming up at budget meeting after budget meeting and elsewhere since Lib Dems took control of the council at the last election.

It is no surprise to find out that the majority of Lib Dems come from the south-east part of the county.

The Tory group, which, I must admit, has tried its best to get things changed over the years, without success, was told by Northumberland County Council leader Geoff Reid: “We already have a county-wide parking permit, which costs £110 a year and allows people to park free anywhere.”

So what he is saying is that free parking only costs you £110 a year. That, Coun Reid, is not free parking in my book nor anyone else’s book.

The Tory Group came up with their latest plan to make parking free for all residents of Northumberland. Anyone coming into the area would have to pay.

It might have been difficult to implement but at least it is a step in the right direction in a bid to end an anomaly which is totally unfair. It was rejected by the Lib Dems

I suppose if I had the cash, I would ask for a judicial review and then take the matter, if required, as far as I could, even to the courts of Europe in an effort to overturn it.

It just smacks of total injustice that some residents can park free and others have to fork out their hard-earned cash.

Still in Alnwick, those fortunate not to have paid for a season’s pass costing £110 can still park free in The Market Place in Alnwick. Another anomaly.

Most days it is now chock-a-block with cars taking advantage of free parking in the centre of town. Tourist chiefs should publicise it to attract even more visitors.

One can only hope that councillors will come to their senses and make parking free all over the county or charge all over the county.

IN last week’s column, I wrote about the demise of public houses in Alnwick.

History records can tell us a lot about how the way we live and spend our money of such a simple thing as alcohol has changed in a small market town.

In 1855, there were 47 public houses and two beer houses scattered throughout the compact town from Bondgate Without to Canongate, from which the local populace could decide to have a drink in.

Considering that in those days the population would be in the region of 7,000 and that Canongate had its own Mayor and boasted a population of 614 then that may put it into context.

Today, Alnwick has 13 public houses and hotels where you can get a drink. Some of those are struggling and it is known that a number face a bleak future. In recent years, pubs are shutting one by one and Alnwick’s two specialists off-licences have long since gone. But there is a shift in the way people consume alcohol.

Supermarkets and shops are selling more liquor than ever before and people are tippling in ever-increasing numbers in their home.

Just look in most trolleys being pushed around supermarkets and you’re bound to see alcohol of some shape or another. Let’s hope this change in social habits does not lead to the demise of the local.