Parking rethink is not enough, claim traders

TRADERS concerned that new parking restrictions are driving away business claim North Tyneside Council’s efforts to remedy the situation will fall short.

Tynemouth Business Forum chairman John Keddy, owner of the Children of the Revolution kids’ clothing shop, says traders have reported a drop in custom since a new residents’ permit scheme and parking layout in Front Street were introduced.

As reported in the News Guardian last week, the forum is calling on the council to relax the new residential permit scheme between 9.30am and 4.30pm to allow shoppers to park for up to two hours.

Over a two-week period last month, more than 3,000 people, many of them residents, signed a petition supporting the forum’s call.

In response to those calls, the council has lined up a range of measures including improved signage to direct motorists to long-stay car parks, relocation of disabled spaces to make way for a new loading bay in Hotspur Street, the resolution of loading bay issues at the western end of Front Street, and a return to a two-hour parking limit with extra permits that could allow customers to stay longer.

But Mr Keddy says the changes are simply not enough.

“These aren’t new things the council is doing. I have e-mails promising all of the above from three months ago, so for them to indicate that these are new solutions is slightly misleading,” he said.

“As much as we welcome these small changes, they are not altogether what we have been campaigning for.

“We are campaigning to improve visitor parking because the fact is visitors and much-needed customers are finding it impossible to park near the centre of the village.

“We would all love to see more people using the long-stay car parks at Priors Haven and Spanish Battery, but I’m not sure what makes the council think that people will suddenly find these unused and inconvenient car parking spaces suddenly more desirable because of some new signs.

“We have asked repeatedly that these car parks are made free to incentivise the public to use them, but the council has refused point blank to even try this suggestion.”

Borough mayor Linda Arkley said: “Our intention with the improvements to Tynemouth parking has always been to achieve the best we can for the mix of users – businesses, residents and visitors.

“The council introduced the scheme in good faith and has listened to the representations from businesses and has already put in place several improvements to the scheme.

“These latest recommendations will deliver further improvements and help boost the turnover in parking spaces to support shoppers and businesses.

“However, the council has consulted with residents who campaigned for the current parking arrangements for ten years, and they do not want a return to the old system.”

In April, the council carried out a reorganisation of parking bays in Front Street at the same time as it replaced the road’s surfacing.

The work was in response to concerns that some of the parking bays were causing an obstruction, resulting in disruption for deliveries and public transport services.

As part of the first phase of the improvement package the council aimed to support businesses by improving the turnover of parking spaces.

Initially, a penny-a-minute parking scheme was introduced with a maximum two-hour stay, later increased to four hours.

The second phase, introduced in August, saw the introduction of residents-only permit zones in the narrow roads north of Front Street and other areas.

Mr Keddy added: “I would appeal to the council to at least trial some of our ideas.

“They include sharing some of the current permit-only zones and see what impact it has on the current situation for residents, visitors and businesses.

“They also include introducing a seasonal park-and-ride system, make the long-stay car parks at Priors Haven, Spanish Battery and Oxford Street free to entice visitors to use them, and putting herringbone-patterned parking down Percy Park Road to greatly increase the number of available spaces.

“We have been suggesting all of these ideas and more now for months now, and the council keep telling us that they are listening, but it is not a sympathetic ear we need, it’s a solution to the fact that our visitors cannot park, which has had, and is continuing to have, a huge impact on the businesses of Tynemouth.”

n Letters – Page 10