PARKING in the heart of Alnwick’s historic core has been described as a ‘free-for-all’ by councillors, because of a loophole which makes enforcement impossible.
Cars and other vehicles are now regularly being left in the Market Place, but police are unable to issue a fixed penalty or take out a prosecution because the traffic order governing the site only restricts vehicular access except for loading and unloading.
It means that officers can only take action if they actually witness a driver accessing and leaving the square without loading or unloading their vehicle.
At a meeting of the county council’s Area Committee North on Monday night, councillors heard that totally pedestrianising the area was not an option because shops within the Market Place had no rear access for deliveries.
Coun Gordon Castle said: “My heart sinks when I hear the words parking in Alnwick. None of the solutions are likely to please everybody.
“It is essential that vehicles can get in for the purposes of loading and unloading, but enforcement of this is not a parking matter, it’s a policing matter.
“To enforce it would require a policeman being there all day, every day, which the police understandably think is a waste of their time.
“What we have to do is come up with some kind of solution, but that will prove extremely tricky.”
He added: “The only real option at this time is to leave it as it is, because there is no better option available. That does not mean we do nothing, given the widespread abuse that presently prevails in the Market Place.
“We need to have discussions with the police so that serial offenders are prosecuted.”
But Alnwick Town councillor Geoff Watson told the committee that a solution had been suggested in 2009.
“We came up with a proposal that there could be some limited parking alongside the Northumberland Hall, which would mean the traffic order being revised or replaced,” he said.
“Nothing has been done and we are still being faced with a free-for-all car park in the middle of Alnwick. There are safety issues including cars driving straight in and out, causing quite a few narrow squeaks with pedestrians.”
Coun Castle responded: “This would need full public consultation because the Market Place is regarded as a highway.
“There is a working group of the Alnwick Partnership which is looking at options for the Northumberland Hall and the Market Place.
“It should be left as is until the working group comes up with recommendations.”
It was agreed to include an update on a future Area Committee North agenda.