Drivers will officially be allowed to park in Alnwick Market Place, having taken the law into their own hands and done it anyway.
County planning committee members voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to allow a parking zone there, just as the council’s new parking warden regime gears up for action.
Cars used to park free there, but were banished in 1998, after a costly redesign of the Market Place involving laying cobbles and stone paving.
Traders were aghast and forecast misery for businesses, but were told a condition of grants for the work was that the surface would not be a glorified car park.
The ban has increasingly been ignored and since it is a traffic order enforceable only by the police, little has been done about it.
At the request of Alnwick county councillor Gordon Castle, a working group was set up last July and suggested consulting on a restricted parking zone.
Some 131 consultation documents were sent out to local people and legal bodies, of whom only 12 responded, seven for and five against.
Coun John Taylor told Tueday’s meeting he would have expected more response to something affecting the centre of Alnwick and of the district.
“I’m going to move acceptance, but I wish some more people in Alnwick had really looked at the thing and put their shoulder to the wheel, but that’s democracy,” he said.
Committee chairman Coun Trevor Thorne said it seemed a sensible outcome. Cars will be limited to 30 minutes’ parking, three loading bays will be created and motorcyclists will park free. There will be one disabled space, without time limit.
Alnwick Civic Society opposed any parking in the Market Place except loading.
A couple of people objected because parking must be paid for, arguing it should be free, as in the south east of the county.
A woman in Paikes Street welcomed the change, saying that if long-term bays were taken, she had to move her car six to 10 times a day, often with three grandchildren in tow.
The market operator, Local Living (NE) Ltd, said it was imperative the new measures allowed effective enforcement on market days.
Town councillors unanimously backed the parking zone, but thought the number of signs excessive, especially near the Market Cross.
The current pedestrian zone is a moving traffic restriction and can only be enforced by police but the new scheme will see it replaced with a restricted parking zone, which can be patrolled by Northumberland County Council’s civil enforcement officers.