Charges are returning to a town centre’s car parks – but will not be enforced until next month.
Payment machines in Newcastle will be back in use from tomorrow as non-essential shops are allowed to reopen.
But Newcastle Borough Council says, although motorists are ‘encouraged’ to pay, no fines will be issued until July in a bid to support the town’s businesses.
All the council-owned car parks will be open, with the exception of the Midway, and NHS workers will still be able to park for free if they have a permit.
Councillor Stephen Sweeney, the council’s cabinet member for finance and efficiency, said: “Throughout the lockdown the council’s car parks have been free to all key workers and that is something we felt was the right thing to do. NHS workers who have the relevant permits can continue to park for free in our car parks.
“The council’s focus is now to protect our residents, provide vital services to all of our communities, support our local businesses and help restart the local economy.
“The re-opening of the town centre is an important step in this.
“As part of the reopening all council car parks, apart from Midway, will be open.
“We would encourage users to pay for parking, however, we will not enforce charges until early July in a bid to further support businesses in the town centre.”
Trader Robert Price, who runs Robert Price Butchers in Merrial Street, welcomed the council’s actions. He said: “I think it’s great that the council aren’t going to enforce the charges yet – it’s a support thing to do to support businesses. It will be great to see other shops in the town start to open up this week.”
The town’s market reopened open last Friday and the council said customers were happy to stick to the guidance, including social distancing, which was set out on signs displayed in the area.
Newcastle Business Improvement District (BID) has been coordinating advice and help for retailers throughout the lockdown and has helped some prepare for reopening next week.
BID chairman Eddie Leligdowicz said: “The car parks coming back into use is all part of the recovery process. The local BID is working to support businesses get into a position where they can resume trading. We are trying to help customers feel less anxious about coming into a public space and are using a lot of measures to make the town centre a safe place for visitors.
“A gentle return to car park charges will encourage footfall in the town centre.”