Mayor calls for new ideas to solve parking free-for-all

PROMISES have been given to ‘reignite’ work to tackle parking problems in Alnwick Market Place, with the current situation being branded ‘a free-for-all’ and ‘chaotic’.

The town’s mayor, Coun Alan Symmonds, raised the matter during Northumberland County Council’s north area committee meeting on Monday, calling for clarity and ideas to resolve the issue, which he has described as being ‘all very messy’.

He pushed for dialogue between the authority and police to try to force some movement on the situation before April, when responsibility for parking changes hands.

And his plea received an encouraging response from Mike Scott, head of sustainable transport for the county council, who vowed that the authority would look at ways of tackling the long-running saga.

Mr Scott said: “I have instructed my officers to reignite the work which had previously been done on options for the Market Place and have a proper look at all the options and then decide on a way forward.

“I would like to get any or one of these in place by April but I think that will be very challenging, but we can certainly start the process by then.”

The existing traffic order allows drivers to enter the Market Place to load and unload, but not park.

However, to be prosecuted, a driver must be seen by a police officer going into the area and parking without loading or unloading.

From April, the county council is to take over the enforcement of on-street parking regulations from Northumbria Police.

But offences in the Market Place, which is classed as a highway and not a car park, count as moving traffic violations – a responsibility which will stay with the police.

It has been claimed, however, that police are not willing to allocate resources to this issue.

After the meeting, Coun Symmonds said he was happy with the response from Mr Scott and hoped progress can be made.

“Everybody wants to see a solution and the time has come for the authority to grasp this issue and speak to the police and speak to Alnwick Town Council and come up with some resolutions.”

At the meeting, Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle, said “It is an issue affecting the whole town and has been going on for years.

“The problem is, in 1998, when the order was implemented, it was believed that it was enforceable, but the way it has been drafted means that it can’t be enforced effectively and it has proved difficult to enforce.

“It is unsatisfactory. This issue needs resolving soon and we need county council officers to help us find a way forward.

“The police have made it clear that they are not willing to allocate resources to this issue. It’s a labour extensive operation. They have the odd blitz but it doesn’t have an adequate deterrent effect.”

Afterwards he added: “Historically this goes back to a draft order which made provision for regulated parking in a number of spots in the Market Place under the shadow of the Northumberland Hall but this was withdrawn after an objection and so it was re-drafted. Officers were warned it would be difficult to enforce and so it has proved.”