From Tuesday, much of north Northumberland will finally have parity with the south-east of the county as free parking is introduced.
As of April 1, it will be free to park in county council-run car parks and on-street parking places in Alnwick, Bamburgh, Beadnell, Berwick, Hexham, Morpeth, Rothbury and Wooler.
Motorists will need to display a time disc when parking in short-stay places that were previously pay and display. Enforcing the time limits in short-stay parking areas will ensure high turnover of high-demand spaces.
Enforcement of other restrictions, such as parking outside of marked bays, will also remain in place.
The county council’s parking services staff have been visiting Alnwick over the last two weeks to distribute the new parking discs and talk to residents.
They will be in the town again on Saturday, next Friday and Thursday, April 10, from 10am to 3pm, with a stand in the Market Place. They are being supported by volunteers from the town council and chamber of trade, who are helping to explain the new arrangements.
Carlo Biagioni, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “The Alnwick Chamber of Trade and the Northumberland Market Towns Chambers are very pleased that the new administration kept their promises regarding the car parking issue. We believe this will help the town centres to thrive and grow”.
Mayor of Alnwick, Bill Grisdale, said:”Alnwick should welcome this popular measure, and I would call on all car drivers to help the authority to deliver a smooth transition to the new arrangements.
“The disc system has proved to be very efficient in many other parts of the country and I expect it will be successful here too.”
The county council’s Labour administration pledged before taking power last May to allow local communities to decide if they want to have parking charges or not.
The Leader of the council, Grant Davey, wrote to parish and town councils in July offering them the chance to produce community parking plans. Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We believe free parking has benefits for residents, businesses and visitors.
“I would urge everyone to pick up their new parking discs soon as they can.”
Earlier this year, the council also agreed to amend some of its parking-enforcement policies in a bid to improve traffic movements.
There are a total of six contravention codes being amended in order to reduce abuse of the current restrictions. Parking on double and single-yellow lines during prescribed hours will be reduced to a two-minute observation period (by the civil enforcement officers).
The remaining contraventions, which include double parking and parking adjacent to a dropped footway, will become an instant issue with no observation period.