PROPOSALS to introduce parking charges at a number of county council-owned car parks to fund new investment have received mixed reactions.

At a meeting at County Hall in Morpeth on Tuesday, the authority’s cabinet approved proposals to introduce parking charges at Haltwhistle and Prudhoe railway stations and the Tyne Riverside Country Park at Prudhoe, subject to an eight-week consultation starting this month and running until January.

However, county councillor for Stocksfield, Mickley and Riding Mill, Coun. Anne Dale, said she was concerned that the charges would have a knock-on effect for residents in her ward.

“Here in the Tyne Valley, we have poor train access so most people travel to Prudhoe station because the trains to Newcastle are more frequent,” she said.

“It is wrong to put a charge on this area when there is deprivation and poor transport.”

The proposed charges of £3 per day are based on the existing charge at the Northern Rail car park at Morpeth Railway Station.

The county council recently revealed that it would invest £10m into parking improvements throughout the county, but that the investment would come at a cost.

Coun. Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for local services, described the allocation as “probably the biggest investment in parking, based on what people have told us, by any county council in recent years.”

He added: “Car parking charges are never popular, but it’s a fair and appropriate way to fund these very exciting developments.”

And Coun. Nick Oliver described the proposals as “small-scale, selective charging to justify large-scale investment.”

The council report stated that the charges would target the busier tourism car parks as well as railway stations, whilst retaining free parking in the town centres to support the local economy.

It added that an estimated £404,000 would be generated from the introduction of charges.

County councillor for Hexham East, Coun. Cath Homer, praised the plans to create more than 250 new long-stay spaces in Hexham, and the reconfigure parking at the Wentworth Leisure Centre.

She said: “The issues we have with parking have put a negative light on our town for some time.

“However the proposals, and the analysis of parking areas in the town that has been done, is excellent news for Hexham.”

Coun. Sanderson said the county council hoped to deliver the new spaces in Hexham within a year and a half.

Although no site has been confirmed, previous discussions have focused on the disused Bunker site off Alemouth Road.

In addition to the extra 250 spaces, the removal of HGV parking at the Wentworth car park in Hexham will be carried out to add extra parking capacity, and reduce pedestrian health and safety issues.