MEMBERS of the public packed out a town council meeting in Prudhoe last week to oppose the introduction of car parking charges at two spots in the town.

Paul Jones, director of local services and housing at Northumberland County Council attended the meeting to discuss proposals, currently under consultation, to introduce parking charges at Prudhoe railway station and Prudhoe’s Riverside Park.

The charges have been proposed to help pay for the council’s £10m investment into parking improvements throughout the county, including a new car park in Hexham, at a time when it needs to slash £27m from its budget over the next three years.

Mayor of Prudhoe, Tracy Gilmore, asked: “Why should Hexham get free parking when Prudhoe doesn’t?”

Meanwhile members of the public raised the point that the money collected through charging drivers in Prudhoe was not being proposed to be spent in Prudhoe.

But Mr Jones said the council was in the process of pulling together a business case to enhance the existing play area at the Riverside Park.

Concerns were raised that commuters travelling to Newcastle would be penalised for not taking their cars to a city centre – at a time where efforts are being made to reduce congestion.

One member of the public said: “People in Prudhoe are under pressure financially anyway. People who work in Newcastle have to go in everyday and people are on low wages anyway. To charge them to park their car before they get hit by their train fair to get into town is absolutely outrageous.”

County councillor Anne Dale said bus services south of the Tyne were poor, offering little alternative for commuters, and criticised the council’s decision to charge £3 a day based on the Northern Rail car park at Morpeth Railway Station.

“Actually I am really upset that you have based everything on charges in Morpeth, because actually Morpeth and Prudhoe have nothing in common at all,” she said.

Meanwhile, in relation to the charges at the Riverside Park, Mr Jones said the council was considering options such as offering two hours free for those taking part in Park Run. But Keith Park of Tyne Valley Canoe Club, spoke at the meeting and said it was counter productive to charge for parking at the riverside at the same time as encouraging people to exercise. Town councillors backed Coun. Jennifer McGee’s proposal for the town council to object against the proposals.