Free parking has resulted in a significant upturn in the number of visitors to Berwick town centre since it was introduced three months ago.
That is the verdict of town councillors who have been asked to submit their initial thoughts on the subject to Northumberland County Council.
Councillor John Robertson, chairman of the environment and regeneration committee, said: “It’s early days but the initial results have been positive.
“There has been increased footfall in the town centre and the shop staff I have spoken to have seen that reflected in increased sales.”
However, the council intends to look at long-stay parking again, with the Quayside, Parade and Coxon’s Lane close to capacity by mid-morning.
“Perhaps the only downside has been that more of the workforce and residents living within the town walls are using the car parks because it’s free,” said Coun Robertson.
Councillor Flora Simpson added: “The concern at the moment is that drivers arriving in the middle of the day are finding it difficult to find a space in the long-stay car parks.”
Coun Robertson said Castlegate car park, where many drivers are using the grasscrete overflow area by 10am, would be a priority for review in nine months’ time.
“We currently have a five year agreement with English Heritage for the use of that area,” he explained. “We’re going to have to sit down with them and see what we can do about it. I can’t see them being happy with the existing situation.”
Members felt the short-stay parking zones were working well, especially in Bridge Street.
Councillor Phil Elliott said: “I have seen the town looking a lot busier.
“The chaos that some thought it would create has not happened and, in a way, the massive influx of people into the town is a nice problem to have.”
Coun Simpson added: “More people from the rural areas are now coming into Berwick and more people are popping in from the trading estates because they know they can get short stay parking spaces.”
Councillor Alex Gibson pointed out that some people who used to get the bus into town were now driving in.
A further 13 short-stay bays are due to be created on Marygate ‘in the short-to-medium term’ said Coun Robertson.
“That will increase the number of ‘poppers’ going to Boots or Greggs or wherever to pick up a couple of things,” he said.