Alan Castle: Time for fuel bandits to take the high road

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Well done to the caring, sharing Co-operative for finally admitting what everyone in the Alnwick area has known for years – that we’re being robbed blind because they have a monopoly on fuel in our town.

I’ll be honest. On the rare occasions I use their Willowtree service station, I avoid putting over a fiver into my car. It’s a simple logic – I put enough fuel in to get me to a cheaper station on my travels, where I happily fill up.

What’s really astonishing, however, is the fact that despite the continuing outcry over this shameless rip-off which led to the Gazette’s story last week, the Co-op has actually put the cost of a litre of unleaded UP by a penny since then.

I thought the Co-op was about corporate responsibility and ethical trading, rather than blatant profiteering. While I can just about bear the incredibly annoying ‘Good with Food’ voiceover on their commercials, what I can’t stand is hypocricy in any shape or form.

You’re either ‘caring, sharing’ or you’re not. Nail your colours to the mast, Co-op, instead of playing us all for fools.

A quick search on the wonderweb today showed that Alnwick’s fuel prices are on a par with Thurso, just about the most far-flung place in mainland Britain, perched on the northern coast of Scotland.

If you want to argue about distribution costs, the distance from the main northern refinery at Grangemouth to Alnwick is 113 miles, according to the AA’s Routefinder. Grangemouth to Thurso is 263 miles, by the same site. So what’s the problem? We’re 30 miles from Newcastle, on a major road – given, not a motorway – for goodness’ sake.

But all that becomes a nonsense when you see prices elsewhere in this region – some within 20 miles – which are as much as 8p a litre cheaper.

It blows any such arguments out of the water.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens when Northumberland Estates finally gets its fuel station up and running at Cawledge.

Yes, they will be there to make a profit, but increased competition can only be a good thing when it comes to ending this appalling abuse of power.

Speaking on new developments, I was quite impressed with the way the new Ropery Court has slotted in next to Morrisons, between Fenkle Street and Dispensary Street.

I think it is an excellent looking complex. Pleasing to the eye, different to many other new developments and already looking as though all the flats are filled. It has blended in well with its surroundings. I notice also that the ground floor of the development had been turned into a car park for the residence and is well-used. That was a very sensible move on the part of the developers.

Across the road is the development that includes Wilkinson. I still cannot make up my mind about this one. Is it too large for the space it fills?

Sadly, the former Granary, with its flapping, torn plastic protection to keep out pigeons, looked abandoned and forlorn.

The building is slowly decaying; it is Alnwick’s largest pigeon loft, housing hundreds of feral pigeons. I understand that the firm that was developing it, like many others, was hit by the recession and the building work was halted. That was well over 18 months ago and since then very little, if anything, has been done.

Many, before any work started on the range of buildings, wanted the whole lot demolished but planners opposed the idea. Now it seems decay will again be playing a part in its destruction.

Are we to continue to have this eyesore or is there somebody, somewhere, presently hatching up another scheme for the development of the site?

Alnwick has a lot going for it in 2012. Let’s hope this gets sorted, particularly before the world’s media descends on the town for the arrival of the Olympic Torch this coming June.