Council scheme offering free evening parking in Newcastle could be axed to cut city centre pollution

Credit: PA

Free evening parking in Newcastle city centre could soon be axed, it has emerged.

The Alive After Five initiative, which gives motorists charge-free access to seven popular city centre car parks after 5pm, is expected to be dropped at most of its current locations as council bosses try to put an end to “perverse incentives” for unnecessary car travel.

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

Alive After Five, first launched in 2010, runs in seven council-owned car parks –

  • Eldon Square

  • Eldon Garden

  • Dean Street

  • Quayside Multi-Storey

  • Oxford Street

  • Manors

  • Grainger Town Multi-Storey

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

Stephen Patterson, chief executive of city centre business improvement district company NE1 Ltd, has now revealed that the council is set to axe the offer in some of those seven sites.

He has suggested that the changes would only apply to those council-run multi-storeys within a new Clean Air Zone (CAZ) due to launch in 2022 with daily fees for some high-polluting vehicles, though not private cars, coming into the city centre in a bid to reduce illegal emissions levels – a problem linked to more than 300 premature deaths on Tyneside each year.

Previously-released maps of the CAZ would suggest that the Quayside and Manors car parks fall outside that zone and therefore could stay free after 5pm – though the city council refused to confirm any details of which car parks will be affected or when the change might happen.

Mr Patterson said he hoped the reintroduction of parking fees would ultimately help and not hinder businesses and were just “one small part of the efforts that are being channelled into improving the city centre experience”. 

A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said: “The city council is currently considering proposals for changes to some car parking charges in the city centre.

“A decision on whether to proceed with these proposals is expected to be confirmed soon. Any changes to car parking would be subject to consultation.”