Northumberland County Council has earmarked £10million, with major projects taking place in the market towns of Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth, and a range of proposals, expansions and improvements being considered or carried out elsewhere.
To help fund this, the authority’s cabinet has approved new charges at a number of council-owned car parks on the coast and at railway stations, subject to an eight-week consultation starting this month and running until January.
But this is not a wholesale return to paying for parking, with the administration vowing never to impose charges in town centres.
Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for local services, described the £10million pot as ‘probably the biggest investment in parking, based on what people have told us, by any county council in recent years’.
However, ‘just to borrow millions of pounds willy-nilly and ask taxpayers to pick up the bill’ would not be the right way of funding it, he added. “Car-parking charges are never popular, but it’s a fair and appropriate way to fund these very exciting developments.”
Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, whose ward includes Bamburgh, Beadnell and Seahouses, which are all affected, said that he welcomes the investment.
He added: “Some detractors will claim that these charges will deter visitors, but I think that’s nonsense. These charges are fair and won’t have any impact on tourism in the area.”
Coun Sanderson’s cabinet colleagues also agreed that this scheme was a sensible approach to funding the parking improvements.
Coun Nick Oliver described it as ‘small-scale, selective charging to justify large-scale investment’, while Coun Wayne Daley said that it was ‘an utter load of rubbish’ to suggest tourists would come and then not pay to park.
Coun Cath Homer added: “There are very few places outside Northumberland where you aren’t charged for parking your car at the coast.”
At Seahouses, Craster, Newton-by-the-Sea and the Holy Island coach park where charging is already in place, the tariffs would be increased. For the main car park on Lindisfarne, any increase is subject to negotiations regarding the renewal of the lease.
A number of car parks which are free at present would see charges introduced – Bamburgh; Beadnell; Cresswell; Beachway, Mermaid and The Ranch in Blyth; and Fountain Head at Seaton Sluice. However, in the latter five, there would be an option to park for an hour for free.
It is also proposed to introduce daily charges at four railway stations – Alnmouth (northbound side), Morpeth (south), Haltwhistle and Prudhoe. The cost would be £1.50 a day at Alnmouth and £3 a day at the other three.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service