The £60,000 cost of free parking

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MORE than three years after free parking was introduced in Hexham, many motorists are still paying a high price to leave their cars in the town.

For figures uncovered through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in the last financial year Northumberland County Council raked in almost £60,000 from parking fines issued to drivers across Hexham.

The revenues being generated amount to over £1,000 every week or, assuming everyone issued with a penalty charge notice pays the initial amount of £25, over 40 fines every week.

And it appears the regime of colour-coded bays in the Wentworth car park remains as clear as mud to many, with well over £36,000 of the total figure generated in the town’s main car parking area.

Independent county councillor for Hexham West, Derek Kennedy, said: “Because I live quite close to the car park I regularly see people ending up bamboozled by the massive wall of instructions that greets them.

“It’s clearly detrimental to the whole town because if people are slapped with a fine they are going to think twice about coming back.

“There’s no doubt the red, white and blue bays are causing confusion and that needs to be addressed, along with the undersupply of spaces.”

Mike Bottomley, who runs an interiors business on Market Street in Hexham, was among a group of traders who issued a plea for swift action to local councillors back in March.

It followed a pledge to build a multi-storey car park from the former Labour administration at County Hall.

“More and more potential customers and clients are coming into Hexham concerned about receiving tickets and, if you talk to any of the traders, they’ll tell you their footfall has decreased,” he said.

But a short-term solution to relieve some of the pressure appears to be on the horizon.

For council officials are understood to have been in Hexham on Wednesday to paint 50 temporary long-stay bays on the town’s former fire station site.

Work is still being carried out to assess the potential future uses of the site at the Tyne Mills Industrial Estate, which was badly damaged during Storm Desmond in December 2015.

It is hoped staff from nearby businesses will use the site for all day parking and free up some of the sought after long-stay spaces in the Wentworth Car Park.

Conservative county councillor for Hexham East, Cath Homer, said the action had been long-awaited.

“Finally, after years of work on this issue, I am able to say that the current council administration is looking at a parking strategy across the county,” she explained.

“In my opinion, that needs to be done on a town by town basis, but it will involve taking an in depth look at what is needed in each area.

“The commitment is very much still there to address the long-standing parking problems in Hexham and replace all the long-stay parking we have lost.”

She added that talks were ongoing between the council and the owners of three key sites in Hexham to discuss their potential for all day parking.

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HOW THE FIGURES STACK UP

Location Income received - April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017

Beaumont Street £8,403

Gilesgate £3,510

Gilesgate (short stay) £1,231.72

Loosing Hill £933

Market Place £3,516

Market Street £1,907

Priestpopple £1,276.12

Prospect House £889

St Mary’s Wynd £1,300

Wentworth (short stay) £12,257

Wentworth (medium stay) £22,667

Wentworth (long stay) £1,795

Wentworth (HGV & coach park) £50

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