County dallies over parking permits

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PLEDGES to introduce a parking permit scheme for residents in north Northumberland may not be honoured for another year, leaving residents with no choice but to continue paying unpopular charges.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade (Act) chairman Carlo Biagioni says the county council has failed to progress plans for a £15 annual pass, which would allow people to park for free between 9am and 11am and from 3pm to 5pm.

The scheme was debated in January as part of the authority’s consultation on parking reform, which has been mired in controversy over charges continuing to be levied in the rural north and west but not in the urban south-east.

As part of a compromise, Act was prepared to accept a permit scheme similar to one currently in force in Morpeth and was given assurances by the Liberal Democrat executive that it would be taken forward.

But Mr Biagioni has since learned that the proposal won’t be considered until at least October, meaning Alnwick is unlikely to see any benefits until next year.

“We came away from that meeting with a feeling that our attempts to resolve this emotive issue were at last nearing some sort of settlement,” he said. “The recommendation that Alnwick would fall in line with Morpeth was at least a step in the right direction.

“It would have offered residents and visitors the chance to drive into the town centre and park free on a Sunday or shop at specified times during the day free, although the permit would have an administration charge payable to the county council.

“Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case after all, as it will not be put into action until after the results of the consultation have been analysed and a revised report prepared.

“We understand that this is not due until October and any final decision will probably not occur until next year.”

He added: “We’re dismayed at the lack of urgency displayed by the county council. Although we were not offered free parking, this would at least throw some sort of a lifeline to our town during these hard economic times. We had hoped that this would be imminent and that the town would derive some benefit this year.

“Alnwick needs to regain its vibrancy and exorbitant parking costs, together with restrictions, are not benefiting our town.”

County councillor for Alnwick Gordon Castle said: “There is huge frustration that this issue is taking a painfully long time to address.

“The permit is the one part of the strategy that I completely agree with and we would like it implemented as soon as possible.

“I’ve done everything I can to press the Executive, but the problem is ongoing disagreement across the authority over how the strategy will be managed.”