Anger over parking chaos in Alnwick Market Place has boiled over after a blood session was cancelled with dozens of donors turned away.
A session was due to take place in the Northumberland Hall on Tuesday, but when the NHS Blood and Transplant team arrived, it was unable to park its van to unload equipment.
Donors, who attend the session from not just Alnwick but all around the region, therefore could not make their donations.
And it brings to a head the long-running issue of illegal parking in the town square, which has been the source of contention for a number of years.
Currently, the restriction in place cannot be enforced by the county council’s civil enforcement officers, only by the police as a ‘moving’ traffic offence.
The long-awaited new parking scheme featuring parking and loading bays, originally agreed in September 2012, is now promised for the start of June.
The incident this week saw the Gazette office inundated with calls from residents while a story published on our website sparked fury.
Donor Bill McDonald, from Alnwick, described the situation as ‘absolutely scandalous’ with ‘dozens of people being turned away’.
Two more Alnwick residents, Richard and Tracey Graham, were due to donate blood for the 41st and 32nd time respectively on Tuesday.
Richard said: “People come from all around the North East and it’s one of the busiest places in the North East for blood donation. I have no idea when we will get in now. People will have appointments so we probably won’t get in in a couple of weeks.”
Tracey added: “It was full today and some people have to change plans to come.
“They are always asking for blood and they need more donors and then this happens.”
Louise Stanfield, from Shilbottle, arranges her donor sessions so that she can go with other people, in particular her mum.
“I’m rebooked again now, but something has to be done about Alnwick Market Place,” she said. “It’s just an absolute free-for-all mess.”
Alnwick town and county councillor, Gordon Castle, said that the situation was disappointing but not unexpected, while his fellow ward member, Heather Cairns, added: “It just demonstrates what chaos the Market Place is.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant confirmed that the session was cancelled as they were unable to park and unload equipment and apologised for any inconvenience.
“We understand that parking is popular in the Market Square and therefore contact Northumberland County Council ahead of each session at this venue to book spaces for our vehicles,” she said.
“Today, when we arrived, there were no parking spaces reserved for us and as a result we were unable to unload to set up our blood-donor session.
“We have tried to contact all those donors with appointments by phone to explain the situation and offer them an alternative, convenient appointment and we will be writing to them.
“We will be working with our contact to make sure this problem doesn’t happen in future.”
A county council spokesman said that usually the dates and vehicle registrations of the vehicles that need to have access are provided in advance, but the network management team received a call from the NHS on Tuesday morning to say that they had forgotten to make the necessary arrangements.
He also confirmed that the county council is unable to enforce the current regulation, but is seeking to change the order and should take over responsibility for enforcement by early June.
An end in sight for lengthy saga?
In September 2012, Alnwick Town Council agreed to a new scheme with 11 parking bays, plus a disabled spot and a motorcycle bay, and several loading bays. The parking spaces would have a 30-minute limit.
But a year later, despite initial suggestions that it could be in place by Easter, the scheme was still facing delays.
In November last year, it was reported that the county council was preparing to mark out the bays, with the new order coming into effect in December.
But now, the changes will not come in until Monday, June 2, when the legal order comes into force.