Proposals to introduce or hike fees in car parks across the county, in order to fund a programme of improvement works, went out for consultation last year, proving very controversial in certain places and sparking petitions.
As previously reported, the county council’s leadership has subsequently decided to row back on some of the suggestions and will now not be bringing in charges in Blyth, Cresswell, Seaton Sluice, the railway stations at Haltwhistle and Prudhoe, or the latter’s Tyne Riverside Country Park.
In addition, there are some minor changes to what was previously proposed at Seahouses, Craster and Beadnell.
In Seahouses, it is suggested there is a £2.40 two-hour option, rather than just one-hour free then £3.50 for up to three hours.
In Craster, it was proposed to have a three-hour or all-day tariffs only, but it is recommended that one and two-hour stays are now included.
In Beadnell, the parish council requested that the first hour be free and this will happen for the first year and reviewed after 12 months.
Plus, it is also recommended that the proposed increase in the annual countywide car-park pass be phased in over two years, with the charge being £195 in 2019-20 and £225 in 2020-21.
The updated proposals are set to be approved by the cabinet next Tuesday (February 12), but also went before the communities and place committee today (February 6).
Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for local services, said: “I always said that this was a genuine consultation and that we would not just ask for views, but listen to them and then act upon them.
“We’ve listened carefully to all the feedback and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to have their say.
“I’ve had a number of face-to-face meetings and dealt with a large amount of correspondence and as a result of these comments we’ve made a number of changes and refinements to the proposals, where it was considered appropriate to do so, and I think this strikes the right balance, taking on board all the views put forward.
“As a council that listens, we feel introducing charges in some areas wasn’t the right thing to do at the moment.
“It’s also important to note we will maintain our policy of free parking in main town centres to support the local economy.”
The report to councillors says that the overall income generated from these proposals would be £384,000 in a full year – £20,000 lower than the target saving of £404,000 included in the budget proposals.
The cost of implementing them is £27,000 and it is recommended that this is met from the Invest to Save allocation within the financial plan, with all the charges set to be in place by July this year.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service