Northumberland County Council is set to approve requests for free parking from communities in the north of the county.
Making good on its manifesto promise, the county council’s Labour administration has given communities in north Northumberland the power to scrap charges in their area, to bring them in line with the rest of the county.
Motorists will be able to take advantage of free parking in Berwick, Bamburgh, Beadnell and Wooler, with Seahouses and Holy Island set to retain charges.
It is set to cost the authority £2.3million in lost revenue, plus £150,000 implementation costs. But the council believes it will be money well spent, stating: “We believe this is an income cut worth taking to assist Northumberland.
“Council has evidence that removing charges can increase casual retail trade in rural towns by two thirds and we want local businesses to benefit from those changes.”
Town and Parish Councils considered the offer last year, with changes due to be implemented on April 1, subject to public consultation.
Each town/parish council produced a traffic management plan, which is due to go before Northumberland County Council’s policy board on February 11.
A report given to the county council’s economic prosperity and strategic services committee on Tuesday revealed that Berwick Town Council plans to remove charges from all of the town’s council-owned on and off-street parking, except at the train station, where a new parking permit scheme would be introduced for commuters.
Current time limits would be retained, with discs introduced to enforce time limits.
The town council also wants free coach parking to be provided, with funding for this due to be considered through county’s local transport plan capital funding.
In Beadnell, charges will be removed from the car park on Harbour Road, and signage will be improved to ensure that visitors are aware that the car park is free.
Plans to introduce additional double yellow lines on Harbour Road will continue, to encourage parking in the car park and prevent congestion on the main road.
Parking charges will be removed from the car park at Bamburgh from April 1, and NCC will continue to work with the parish council on the implementation of the Bamburgh Traffic Management Plan, with costs associated with the remaining works currently being considered.
In Wooler, charges will be removed from the bus Station car park, but a two hour limit will be introduced.
Holy Island will retain pay and display charging as the parish council feels it is important to manage parking demand on the island. Discussions are ongoing with NCC about introducing a resident parking scheme, with permits funded from off street car park income.
The parish council has also asked NCC to increase the percentage share of income from the car park to the parish council to assist with implementing the wider traffic management scheme on the Island, such as covering the cost of marshalling in the Chare Ends car park. However the county council has not yet agreed to this, and says further discussions would need to take place.
In its report to the county council, North Sunderland Parish Council acknowledged that free parking could not be fully offered in Seahouses, due to the payment to the Lord Crewe Trust for the car park lease. It also felt that free parking would have a detrimental effect on North Sunderland Harbour Commission, which relies on the income generate from their parking charges in the harbour area.
Instead, the parish council wants to introduce a first hour free system, which it hopes will boost local businesses.
It also proposes that the car park is redesigned to improve parking facilities for motorbikes and reduce the number of unnecessary coach bays to increase space for cars.
The parish council wants to bring charges in line with the Harbour Commissioners car park, but county wants the current level of charge to remain.
The parish also asked for the balance of car parking income to be ring fenced to maintaining the sustainability of the car park and to pay for an increase in Civil Enforcement Officer presence. The county did not agree to this, but said Parking Services would review the frequency of visits.
The parish council would like NCC to investigate resurfacing of the overflow car park and improvements to the parking area at St Aidens - levelling between the road and fence between Broad Road and Monks House. Further discussions are to take place