Car parking will be free in some Northumberland towns from April 1 after councillors agreed to end charges in council run car parks and on street parking places.
The decision to introduce free parking was agreed by the council’s policy board on Tuesday following a wide-ranging consultation involving town and parish councils and local communities.
From April 1, parking will be free in council-run car parks and on-street parking places in Alnwick, Bamburgh, Beadnell, Berwick (except Berwick Railway Station car park), Hexham, Morpeth, Rothbury and Wooler.
Parking charges will be retained in Corbridge, Craster, Holy Island, Newton-by-the-Sea and Seahouses.
It follows the pledge made by the incoming Labour administration to offer to all Northumberland town and parish councils the chance to remove the charges which are currently in place.
The council pledged in May to allow local communities to decide if they want to have parking fees or not. The leader of the council, Grant Davey, wrote to parish and town councils in July last year, offering them the chance to produce community parking plans tailored to their areas. Town and parish councils also consulted local residents and businesses before submitting their community parking plans to the county council.
While free parking will be introduced, enforcement of time limits and other restrictions such as parking outside of marked bays will remain in place. Rigorous enforcement of the time limits in short-stay parking areas will ensure turnover of high demand parking spaces.
The county council has 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 parking restrictions in place.
Parking on double and single yellow lines during prescribed hours will be reduced to a two minute observation period. The remaining contraventions which include ‘double parking’ and parking adjacent to a dropped footway, will become an instant issue with no observation period given.
It is hoped that by combining this policy change with the introduction of free parking we will encourage drivers to park correctly and make full use of permitted parking places rather than them taking a chance and parking illegally, which causes congestion on our streets.
Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We believe free parking has real benefits for residents, businesses and visitors but we left the decision to local communities. We understand and appreciate that for traffic management reasons some communities are unable to take up the offer.”