Scrap the parking charges altogether

I WRITE regarding the disappointing headline in the Northumberland Gazette, January 13, ‘Ray of hope’.

Like so many people I have spoken to, I am utterly dismayed by this campaign for parking charges to be introduced across Northumberland.

This seems to so many of us to be based on the spiteful argument that if some are being punished by parking charges, then everyone should be.

After 13 years of the last spiteful government, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised by this major change in some people’s attitude to others.

It is a fact that prior to Blair, Brown and co causing so much resentment and anger in our society, this same argument would have been reversed and the campaign would have been geared to stop the punishment of some by parking charges, so that no one was being punished.

How times have changed.

I am also dismayed that the deputy leader of the council has ‘expressed his views’ ahead of any decision which suggests to me that this so-called ‘public consultation’ was once again just another sham to pretend the public have a voice when the decision had already long been made before the ‘consultation’ started.

All of these Luddites who cannot see the damage that has been done to towns like Morpeth, Alnwick and Berwick and towns and cities right across the UK by local authorities of all parties waging war on the motorist by reducing parking spaces, introducing parking charges, vandalising streets with yellow lines, restrictions here, instant fines there, are living in a fantasy world they seem to think is Utopia.

These policies overwhelmingly discriminate against rural people, who have no option but to use their cars to travel to towns for services that we pay for but don’t have nearby, and discriminate against tourists and day visitors.

The dramatic drop in visitors is there to see, every day, to anyone who cares to look.

Those same Luddites are refusing to acknowledge the massive and unrelenting rise of internet shopping where goods are much cheaper because they don’t have the rising business rates, high rents and parking charges and parking tickets to compete against, and those goods are delivered quickly and straight to the door without hassle.

Those Luddites will eventually be smothered by the very sand they have their heads permanently buried in.

It is an indisputable fact that huge numbers of people are turning to the internet to buy all their goods and abandoning the high street for good.

We have seen so much evidence of this in the press and on TV where other local authorities are desperately looking to schemes to entice people back, schemes that, so far, are not working.

Many authorities are reported to be re-examining the whole parking charges issue with a mind to scrap them completely because of the negative impact they have on businesses.

Long-established surviving traders in Morpeth have already written in the local press about the parlous state of their businesses and that is reflected right across Northumberland. So many have gone out of business and there are now many more empty shop premises that are there for all to see.

High business rates and rents are also playing their part, yet we have some people screaming for parking charges everywhere despite the clear evidence of the damage they have already caused.

For God’s sake, Northumberland County Council, wake up and see what is happening in the real world.

Scrap parking charges across the county, together with the wasteful bureaucracy that has to administer it, create some more parking spaces, and try to entice shoppers and tourists back to the high streets like they used to.

High streets flourished before parking charges, but look at them now. I fear the damage has already been done.

Do I think they will? No chance. Look up the word Luddite in the dictionary.

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