Berwick town centre set to get free parking

Church Street car park in Berwick.
Church Street car park in Berwick.

Free parking looks set to be introduced in Berwick town centre, with the notable exception of the railway station, from next spring.

Berwick Town Council agreed to make a formal request to Northumberland County Council for the abolition of parking charges at its meeting on Monday night.

The council had already indicated it was planning such a move following the overwhelming support shown by businesses for free parking at a public meeting in the town hall last month.

Clerk Sue Finch explained: “The town council’s position on car parking has been that there should be equalisation of car paring charges across Northumberland.

“The view of the retail community, most strongly expressed by the Chamber of Trade, is that free parking is essential to the economic well-being of the town centre, attracting both residents and visitors, who can at present park free of charge in other competing towns in the Scottish Borders.

“Residents, in turn, feel strongly that there should be parity across the county.”

However, it is asking for parking charges to be retained - apart from 20-minute free parking – at the railway station.

Miss Finch said: “Whilst supporting free parking, the town council nevertheless recognises that the central location of Berwick railway station presents a special problem because of its use by commuters and considers that this location should continue to have 20-minute free parking, but that charges should otherwise remain in place.

“Displacement of commuters to nearby parking places should be prevented by the introduction of resident parking schemes.”

Free parking is likely to come into force in April.

Existing car park time restrictions would remain in place, with motorists using discs. Traffic enforcement officers would be retained.

The town council is also aware of potential displacement from ‘pay’ car parks elsewhere in the town such as Berwick Infirmary, while proposals to redevelop the Kwik Save site may lead to the loss of the adjacent parking facility.

Plans for an experimental short-term parking scheme on Marygate are also progressing, with a view to its introduction in April, possibly at the same time as free parking.

Miss Finch said: “The consultation showed that over 80 per cent of responses were in favour of the proposal.”

The town council is calling for the Marygate bays to be available for half hour stays rather than the 20 minutes outlined in the proposal.

Councillor Gavin Jones said: “Thirty minutes would seem to be a more practical time limit judging by the feedback I’ve had.”