Free ‘Alive After Five’ car park in Newcastle city center could be scrapped by council

Free evening parking in Newcastle city center may soon be scrapped, it has been learned.

The Alive After Five initiative, which gives motorists free access to seven popular city center car parks after 5 p.m., is set to be scrapped in most of its current locations as council bosses try to end ‘perverse incentives ” for useless cars. to travel.

Such a move would be Newcastle City Council’s latest push to reduce traffic and improve air quality in the city centre, alongside a major £50million transformation that would see Gray Street and Blackett Street pedestrianised.

Go here for the latest news on regional affairs and North East politics

Alive After Five, first launched in 2010, operates in seven council-owned car parks – Eldon Square, Eldon Garden, Dean Street, Quayside Multi-Storey, Oxford Street, Manors and Grainger Town Multi-Storey.

Introduced alongside later opening hours for town center businesses, the scheme has been credited with boosting Tyneside’s economy by hundreds of millions of pounds since its inception.

Stephen Patterson, managing director of inner-city business improvement district company NE1 Ltd, has now revealed the council is set to scrap supply at some of those seven sites.

He suggested the changes would only apply to council-run multi-storey buildings in a new Clean Air Zone (CAZ) due to launch in 2022 with daily charges for some high-polluting vehicles, but not private cars, entering the city. center with the aim of reducing levels of illegal emissions – an issue linked to more than 300 premature deaths in Tyneside each year.

Previously released maps from CAZ would suggest that Quayside and Manors car parks are outside this area and could therefore remain free after 5 p.m. – although the city council declined to confirm details of which car parks will be affected or when the change could happen .

Mr Patterson said he hoped the reintroduction of parking fees would ultimately help and not hinder business and was only a ‘small part of the effort that is being channeled to improve the downtown experience’.

He added: “The introduction of parking charges in the inner city car parks is not about reducing support for businesses, quite the contrary, it is about providing a better experience and helping the retail and business community create the right environment for long-term growth.

“We support the council’s decision to refocus its efforts on reducing pollution in the city center and although they will no longer be offering free parking after 5 p.m. in some of its city center car parks, the charge will not apply. will apply only to car parks inside the air quality zone. Free parking after 5pm will still be available in Newcastle at the council’s other city center car parks. Only those in the air quality zone will be affected.

NE1’s Stephen Patterson

“Coming out of the pandemic, we have seen major changes in ways of selling and working and we are all working hard to ensure that we emerge stronger and more capable in the future, delivering a better and more sustainable experience. in the city as a whole.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week, Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes confirmed that Alive After Five was under review and said the council needed to be ‘consistent’ to discourage unnecessary trips by car.

Councilor Forbes said the poor air quality was largely caused by rush hour rather than evening traffic, but added: ‘However, there is a wider issue of how to ensure that we are consistent in encouraging people to use public transport whenever possible and that there are no perverse incentives. so that people drive unnecessarily.

“We also need to balance this with the economic recovery and ensure that downtown, where many retail and hospitality businesses have struggled, continues to feel supported as it continues to recover. foot after Covid.

“We are looking at Alive After Five as part of our normal budgetary processes and looking long-term at how we balance the various competing interests to make sure we support the economy while ensuring that public transport, walking and cycling are priorities. . above car use where possible.

A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: ‘City Council is currently considering proposals to change certain parking charges in the city centre.

“The decision whether or not to pursue these proposals should be confirmed shortly. Any change in car parking would be subject to consultation.

For a digest of North East regional politics and affairs straight to your inbox, go here to sign up for the free Northern Agenda newsletter

Comments are closed.