Parking charges will not be introduced on the seafront in Blyth, with the proposals being dropped in the face of strong public opposition.
To help fund a £10million investment in parking improvements across Northumberland, the county council proposed introducing or increasing charges in a number of car parks.
As part of this, it was suggested that while the first hour would be free, up to three hours’ parking would cost £1.50 and all day would be £3 in three of Blyth’s coastal car parks – Beachway, Mermaid and the Ranch.
The proposal did not go down well in the town, with thousands of people signing a petition against the introduction of charges.
But it was revealed yesterday (Tuesday, January 15) that Northumberland County Council’s leadership has decided not to push ahead with the proposals in Blyth or Cresswell, where there were worries that cars would simply park all along the road and dunes to avoid payment in the car park.
Likewise, following concerns from locals, proposals to introduce charges at Prudhoe and Haltwhistle railway stations and Prudhoe’s Tyne Riverside Country Park have also been dropped.
Coun Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for local services, said: “I said all the way through that this was a genuine consultation.
“Introducing charges (in Blyth) is not the correct thing to do at the moment so I’m happy to withdraw the proposals. I would like to feel that this is a council that listens.
“I’m well aware that I will be accused of doing a U-turn, but it’s not, it’s an acknowledgement of the way things are and the way people feel.”
He added: “It will not stop us in our investment programme. We are still going to bring in enough to continue with our improvement programme for car parks.
“It also won’t stop our investment programme in country parks and play areas.”
Indeed, £50,000 of funding for the Mermaid play area in Blyth was approved by the county council’s cabinet at its meeting the same morning (Tuesday).
“We are going to get Blyth looking its best, but take the people with us,” Coun Sanderson said.
A petition against charges in Blyth, supported by Labour councillors, was backed by more than 3,000 people, while county councillors Eileen Cartie and Jeff Reid expressed their dissatisfaction at a council scrutiny meeting in December.
But Coun Sanderson said that some of the most helpful and constructive input came from Coun Daniel Carr, the Conservative who represents the South Beach ward on Blyth Town Council.
Coun Carr said: “My concern was the impact on residents living in the South Blyth area. I went directly to Coun Sanderson to say, ‘these are the impacts on residents’. My main concern was their feedback.
“They had to make a decision based on what people want, but it doesn’t mean we won’t get investment here in South Blyth.”
Coun Sanderson said: “I listened to people who haven’t used the consultation to speak in a party-political way, but to express genuine concerns. I’m not going to push through anything that goes against what local people want.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service