Ray of hope

PARKING charges will be applied in parts of south east Northumberland, according to a senior politician, bringing to an end the unfair burden placed on the rural north and west of the county.

Roger Styring, who is deputy leader of Northumberland County Council and a key figure in the ruling Liberal Democrat executive, said it was his belief that tariffs would be introduced to certain areas in Blyth and Ashington as part of the authority’s review on car park management.

The council is due to take over civil enforcement of parking from Northumbria Police and has conducted a consultation exercise to seek local views on how spaces should be managed in future.

So far, however, Coun Styring’s fellow executive members have refused to consider the fate of free parking in the south east as part of the strategy, claiming that a “one-size-fits-all” charging policy for the county would be unfair and difficult to implement.

But speaking to the Northumberland Gazette – which spearheaded a campaign and 3,000-name petition to force a rethink on the issue – the deputy leader said some charging was merited in the south east.

“There will be parts of Blyth and Ashington where car parking charges will be applied,” said Coun Styring. “That’s my view of what the consultation will conclude. There are one or two areas in Ashington – not the entire town centre, however – which I believe warrant being considered for charging.”

He added that one of the main problems facing the creation of charges across the board in south east Northumberland was the sheer volume of free private parking offered by supermarkets and retail parks, such as Manor Walks in Cramlington.

“The difficulty is that the county does not own enough of the car parks to actually be able to levy a meaningful charge, because there is so much free space already,” he said. “Most of the car parking spaces in Cramlington are owned by the shopping centre.

“I sympathise entirely with the principles which people in my area are bothered about, that it should be fair across the county. I can’t disagree with that. There’s a major problem in Alnwick, where people who are employed here have to pay to park so they can go to work. I’m not sure how we will manage that aspect.

“The strategy is about traffic management and we’re trying to get the fairest system we possibly can.”