Time to Act on parking strategy, say traders

TRADERS are preparing to take their fight for a fairer parking system to County Hall, after council chiefs agreed to adopt a new strategy behind closed doors.

At a meeting called on Tuesday night, business members of Alnwick Chamber of Trade (Act) said they would make their voices heard following the approval of the Northumberland Parking Strategy by the ruling Liberal Democrat Executive last week.

They are furious that it was passed without recourse to the full council and fails to address the existing regime which sees motorists pay to park in the rural north, but not in the urban south east.

And there is further anger over the Executive’s plan to delegate any future amendments to the strategy to officers, rather than elected councillors.

But the decision has now been called in by Alnwick councillor Gordon Castle, chairman of the economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee, and will be debated by the committee on Wednesday.

It has the power to demand a debate on the issue at full council, or can send recommendations back to the Executive for it to consider. Act says it provides a window of opportunity to air its grievances to a cross-party group of councillors in public.

The council’s Conservative opposition, meanwhile, will put forward its own recommendations, which include only raising sufficient money from parking to pay for its management, equalising tariffs throughout the county, no exemptions on grounds of location, rolling out a shoppers’ permit scheme to all areas and ending the policy of charging on Sundays.

On Tuesday, Act agreed to back the Tory recommendations, after hearing an update of the situation from Coun Castle.

He said: “The county council Executive has agreed the parking strategy and their view is that it does not have to go before the full council, which is why we have called it in.

“I have asked that Alnwick Chamber of Trade and all others in market towns across Northumberland be invited to the scrutiny meeting to express their views.

“The decision to delegate the strategy to officers, which means we would not be able to vote on it, is not satisfactory.

“They also abandoned the point scoring system because it produced a result that did not suit their purpose – the need for parking controls in the south east.”

Act chairman Carlo Biagioni said: “This is a big opportunity to make our voices heard on the unfair parking system and tell the council why it should be changed.

“We should not be prepared to subsidise free parking in south east Northumberland any longer.”

Lesbury councillor Roger Styring, who is deputy leader of the council, was invited to attend but contacted Mr Biagioni to say he would be unable to come because of prior commitments.

The scrutiny committee meeting takes place at County Hall in Morpeth on Wednesday, starting at 10am.