Free parking is coming to Berwick on April 1 with traders hoping it will give their struggling businesses a much-needed boost.
Parking charges will be abolished in council-run car parks and on-street parking places, although time restrictions will still apply.
John Haswell, chairman of Berwick Chamber of Trade, said: “This is what Berwick has desperately needed for years and with the return of limited parking to the lower part of Marygate in the near future it will give our shoppers time to nip in to town instead of heading off to the retail park.
“I would like to thank the new business chairman Councillor Scott Dickinson and the Labour authority at County Hall for making this possible and for achieving it within their first year.”
However, there remain concerns that it is too late to repair the damage done to the town centre.
Marygate trader Bob Tannant said: “I’m hopeful that free parking will have a positive impact on the high street but, given the growth of out-of-town retail, I worry that it’s 10 years too late.”
But he does believe it might encourage residents from Berwick’s rural hinterland to shop in the town again.
“It is good news that we are on a level playing field with the likes of Kelso, Duns and even the Metro Centre now,” he said.
The council’s Labour administration pledged before taking power last May to allow local communities to decide if they want to have parking fees or not.
Coun Dickinson said: “Berwick attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and we are confident that free parking will mean a real boost to the business community here, and particularly to the town centre shops and traders.”
Coun Hazel Bettison of Berwick Town Council added: “We have been waiting a long time for this. Hopefully it will bring back a lot of the shoppers.”
There will also be free parking in Wooler, Bamburgh and Beadnell, although charges remain in Holy Island and Seahouses.