MARKS and Spencers is calling for a parking system more 'suitable' for customers as pressure rises for controversial changes to be scrapped.

New parking measures were introduced in February in the Maiden's Walk car park in Hexham, which serves both M&S and B&M Bargains.

Under the changes, automatic number plate recognition has been installed, Blue Badge holders must pay to park and cash payments have been stopped.

A recent meeting of Hexham Town Council heard supermarket staff are fearing for their jobs after shoppers complain of receiving parking fines they believe to be issued in error.


“The car park for our store is controlled by our landlord", said an M&S spokesman.

"We understand that a number of our customers are concerned by the recent changes and we share their concerns and frustrations.

"We have raised this with our landlord and have asked them to urgently put in place a system that is more suitable for our customers.”

It comes after the branch's new manager Vicky Stephenson issued a rallying call for customers to continue visiting the store on social media.

The MP for Hexham said the parking arrangements are "disproportionately impacting elderly and disabled people."

"I am seriously concerned by the changes at Maiden’s Walk car park in Hexham", Guy Opperman said.

"Cash payments have been stopped and Blue Badge holders are having to pay when they previously didn’t.

"This new system is making life very difficult for local residents, and those who travel into Hexham to use this car park.

"I'm particularly concerned that the changes are disproportionately impacting elderly and disabled people.

"The changes have also had a significant impact on M&S and B&M – as some of their customers have not been able to park and shop in the way they are used to.

"I have urged Workflow Dynamics to change their position. To stop the unfair fines, reintroduce cash payments and review making Blue Badge holders pay.

"My team and I are assisting processing complaints against any unfair fines issued to local people."

Councillor Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said the authority would work with the businesses, landowners and parking management company to come up with a "clear and equitable charging system."

He said: “This is a privately owned and managed car park.

"Local county councillors have received a number of complaints from residents and they, in turn, have alerted the shops to the level of concerns that are being raised over the new parking controls.

"We are particularly concerned that it appears to be the elderly and disabled who have been hit the hardest with parking notices as many do not have the mobile phone technology to download apps, and many do not use credit cards.

"We are aware that the businesses have raised the issue with their landlords as a matter of urgency and have asked them to put in place a system that is more suitable for their customers.

"The county council is also writing to raise its concerns with an offer to work with the businesses, landowners and the parking management company to come up with a clear and equitable charging system.

"We really value these businesses and hope this matter can be resolved swiftly for everyone concerned".

Adderstone Group is the landowner; the managing agents are Carter Towler LLP. Parking enforcement is monitored by Workflow Dynamics Ltd and Hozah oversee payments. All were contacted for comment by the Courant.

“A cashless payment system has been implemented", said an estates surveyor for Adderstone Group. 

"Most car parks around the country now operate in this way.

"There were teething problems for the first weekend but these were immediately resolved and Hozah has put a great deal of effort into educating users. Cash machines not only pose a security risk but are also more labour intensive, costly to manage and prone to breakage; ultimately resulting in higher parking charges.

"We have a duty of care to ensure our private estates are safe, well managed and maintained. Unfortunately, we will not have council tax funds to tap into when this particular car park needs resurfacing.

"60p per hour is an extremely low tariff and M&S reimburses shoppers anyhow. For those shopping elsewhere in Hexham in need of a well maintained and centrally located car park, the cashless payment system really is very easy to use.

"We have not received any correspondence from the planners but are advised that no planning consent is needed to overlay existing signs and attach cameras to existing lamp posts.”