Countdown to free parking begins after April 1 pledge

Alnwick Market Place.

Alnwick Market Place.

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Free parking will be in place on April 1 in the towns and parishes which have requested it, even if the traffic regulation orders aren’t all completed.

That was the pledge from parking services manager Lynne Ryan at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s economic prosperity and strategic services scrutiny committee.

Since gaining power last May, the Labour administration has offered free parking to all town and parish councils, working with them to thrash out traffic-management plans.

As reported in the Gazette last week, a number of places in north Northumberland have chosen free car parking, such as Alnwick, Bamburgh, Beadnell, Rothbury and Wooler.

However, others – Craster, Holy Island, Newton-by-the-Sea and Seahouses – have elected to retain charges as part of a wider traffic-management plan.

Town and parish councils have raised individual issues and there are a number of different proposals relating to each place, but there are also common themes.

For example, Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth have all elected free but time-limited parking using a disc system to ensure turnover of short-stay and town-centre parking.

The proposals will go before the council’s policy board next month for approval and then work will begin on changing the relevant traffic regulation orders.

Ms Ryan explained that this work may take until June, but clarified that the order relating to the suspension of charges is simpler and will be in place for April 1, although the disc system will take longer to implement.

She added that the county council’s CEOs (civil enforcement officers) will accept any type of time disc, but a county council-branded one will be produced.

Also on April 1, some of the powers of CEOs will be tightened up with the time they have to observe an offence being reduced in cases such as parking in restricted streets from five minutes to instant.

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