Monday, 11 February 2013

COUNCIL chiefs have admitted mistakes were made in the way a free parking offer was handled in the week leading up to Christmas.

Festive parking confused drivers, admits council

Parking meter in Berwick. Parking meter in Berwick.
COUNCIL chiefs have admitted mistakes were made in the way a free parking offer was handled in the week leading up to Christmas.

There was widespread confusion about Northumberland County Council’s policy which drew criticism from motorists.
Berwick Chamber of Trade was among those to voice concerns about the issuing of penalty tickets, poor signage and lack of communication.
Chairman John Haswell put his views forward when the matter was discussed by Northumberland County Council’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee.
He said: “While we were very grateful for the county council’s decision to offer free parking in the lead up to Christmas, we felt it could have been better managed.
“We heard stories of people putting money into the ticket machines when they didn’t need to because they hadn’t seen the signs or ended up getting parking tickets because they didn’t realise time restrictions were still in force. But it wasn’t just Berwick - these problems were repeated in other market towns around the county.”
A Conservative motion calling for free pre-Christmas parking to help boost trade was approved despite the misgivings of the Lib Dem administration.
Parking services manager Lynne Ryan explained that all civil enforcement teams were provided with signage for ticket machines which included the dates when the free parking applied, that enforcement action over maximum stays still applied and that refunds would not be given if money was inserted in error.
Although Castlegate car park saw an average increase in traffic of 13 per cent over the free parking period, there was little change in other car parks.
Enforcement officers said signage on ticket machines was ignored despite it being fixed to the front of the machines. In most towns coin slots on machines had to be taped up as users were lifting the signs out of the way to make payment. As time limits were to be enforced, bagging machines would have prevented users from being aware of the maximum stay in place.
Ms Ryan said: “Unfortunately in Alnwick and Berwick some business owners decided to bag machines themselves. This was not helpful as users were then unaware of the time restrictions in place and in some cases received Penalty Charge Notices.”

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