A GROUP Scout leader has said changes to parking in Hexham town centre are making "life extremely difficult" for the organisation.

Shoppers are said to be using the parking bays near the 1st Hexham Scout Group instead of using the car park serving M&S and B&M.

New parking measures were introduced in February in the Maiden's Walk car park which saw automatic number plate recognition installed, cash payments stopped and Blue Badge holders charged.

Since the changes were made, almost all of the spaces around the Scout building are occupied on and off throughout the day - even when the building is empty, its leader said.

Volunteers also claim to have struggled to get the group's minibus out.

"It makes it difficult for us when we want to do things during the day and at the weekend", said Stuart Ford. "And it makes things difficult for the people who hire the building as well - they can have any number of people coming and they need somewhere to park. 

"If those spaces are taken up by people who are going to shop, what ends up happening is people say 'it's terrible there for parking, we won't hire that, we'll go somewhere else.' 

"It makes our life extremely difficult.

"If it starts to put hirers off, then we're going to lose a lot of money and it's money that we absolutely rely on to cover the costs of running the building - especially with the way the prices for gas and electric are going. They're one of our biggest costs and the majority of that is covered by the money that we bring in to hire the building which then has a knock-on effect; it helps us to keep the costs down for our youth members which is what we're all about. If we have to put up the prices for them, then there'll be less of them able to get the experience."

Stuart said the parties behind the car park needed to rethink the arrangement but admitted the old system had been abused by some people.

He added: "I think the problem with the car park has been the difficulties for people using the new machines and the fact that they've removed the option to use cash.

"If we end up losing shops, nobody will park there because they'll not have any reason to.

"It's a real shame for Hexham, towns need all the support they can get at the minute; they don't need this sort of thing."

Marks and Spencers, MP Guy Opperman and leader of Northumberland County Council Glen Sanderson have all backed calls to scrap the controversial changes which the Courant revealed did not have planning permission.

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 surveyor from Adderstone commented: “It is a shame the Scouts are also now falling victim to the problem of unregulated parking in Hexham”.

In September 2020, the Courant reported a planning application was being prepared by Jesmond-based property company Adderstone Group for eight new townhouses and 22 apartments at land off Maiden's Walk and Wanless lane to be known collectively as 'The Mart.'

The same surveyor added: “Despite positive feedback from the planners, we came to understand how hard it was to win public support for private investment in Hexham.

"We have no further plans for development or investment into Hexham”.