‘Community should have say on proposals’

Column Field, Alnwick.
Column Field, Alnwick.

A county-council candidate wants residents to have their say on proposals to develop a key area of Alnwick, as part of a horticultural vision for the town.

Labour representative James Matthewson is standing for the Alnwick ward in the May election.

The 22-year-old believes it is important for townsfolk to be able to have an input on ideas for the Column Field, which includes planting. It comes after the Gazette reported that the Alnwick Raffle 2017 is being held this month.

The aim of the event, supported by local businesses, is to raise enough funds to plant meadow flowers and cherry trees, as well as placing seats, at the Column Field.

Developing a Capability Brown viewing area, including a plinth with an installation relating to the famous landscape gardener, has also been suggested. The plans have been drawn up by award-winning gardener Sean Murray, from Ashington, and form part of a vision to make Alnwick a Garden Town.

The raffle follows a similar event in 2016, which was the brainchild of Jonathan Park, from the town’s Halifax branch, and raised £8,000 to buy plants for the town.

Ahead of the 2017 raffle, the Alnwick Garden Town Trust has been formed to facilitate the move towards becoming recognised as a Garden Town. It consists of representatives from the likes of Alnwick Chamber of Trade (ACT), the town council and Alnwick Garden, plus Mr Park.

Mr Matthewson says he is against over-development of green areas such as the Column Field, but while he does not oppose all of the plans, he told the Gazette that he wants the community to be able to have its say on the scheme.

He said: “Consultation is needed with residents before any of this goes ahead, because some people believe they’re being left out of the loop.

“I would advise groups like the Garden Town Trust to consult residents more and involve the community in plans to develop the town.”

In response, Mr Park said that is important that any work on the Column Field is done slowly, carefully and with due diligence and believes that people should have their say. He added that any structure, like a Capability Brown viewing area, would need to go through the proper planning procedures.

He said the team’s first plan was to tidy up the Column Field by the road to Denwick, adding that this area ‘has become overgrown with nettles and brambles’. The vision would be to plant cherry trees in this area, which Mr Park believes would be an improvement.

He added: “We hope that whatever we envisage or the people of Alnwick envisage will be accepted by the majority of the people in the town.”

ACT chairman Carlo Biagioni added: “We have had a great response from ACT, the town council, Alnwick Garden, Alnwick Tourism Association and the community as a whole for supporting the raffle.”

The draw will take place during a Gala Race Evening in the Olympic Suite of Alnwick’s White Swan Hotel on Friday, February 17, starting at 7pm. Local businesses are selling raffle tickets (£1 each). For Gala night tickets (£20 each), call 07477 622801 or 07553 928172.