COMMUNITY and business representatives are to meet county councillors and officers to decide the way forward for Alnwick Market Place.
At last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area committee, the recommendation was to introduce double yellow lines to the Market Place.
Most agree that something needs to be done as there have been problems ever since it was pedestrianised around 12 years ago but the double yellow lines option has attracted criticism.
Coun Gordon Castle, ward member for Alnwick, suggested that a working group be established to discuss the matter further before bringing a solution back to the committee.
Following further discussions with officers about the double yellow lines scheme, he said: “I’m much less happy than I was about this being the way forward.”
He said that when he had a look last Tuesday there were 30 cars parked in the Market Place, but 12 were blue badge holders who, under current county rules, can park for up to three hours on double yellow lines if they are not causing an obstruction.
He also pointed out that the police would still be responsible for the regulation of ‘loading only’, which has not been controlled in the past.
“That would not take us very far forward and what’s more we would have unsightly yellow lines,” he added.
Coun Roger Styring, who will join Coun Castle on the working group along with Coun Isabel Hunter, executive member for infrastructure, said: “At the moment it’s anarchy so we have to do something.”
Coun Robert Arckless said: “It’s ironic because I remember the changes and there were difficulties then but the current situation is much worse.
“As a disabled person, getting across the Market Place is far riskier than it was before.”
But Coun John Taylor was concerned that the issue was being kicked into the long grass.
“We have been chewing at this bit of fat for 10 years and quite frankly we are passing the buck.
“How long is this working group going to take to come back? I will support the recommendation if there’s a time limit.”
It was agreed that the relevant parties, including the town council and the town’s chamber of trade, will meet and a report back to the July meeting.
Mayor of Alnwick, Coun Alan Symmonds, welcomed this option.
“The good thing about it from our point of view is it’s going to be a working group involving all the stakeholders.”
Later that evening, Alnwick Town Council agreed to elect two representatives to the working group, with a third in reserve.
They are Coun Ken Moore and Coun Symmonds, with Coun Graeme Knox as back-up.
Members also debated the town council’s position on the preferred option for the Market Place.
Coun Geoff Watson recommended accepting limited parking in the square, with a line of spaces running adjacent to the Northumberland Hall.
“I favour the plan which was put forward a few years ago, to allow a small number of bays on one side of the Market Place,” he said.
“This was accepted by the majority of people as the best option, but nothing was ever actioned by the county council.”
But Coun Bruce Hewison said: “If you have any parking alongside the Northumberland Hall, you will have a stream of traffic in the Market Place all day long.
“The only solution is to keep cars out of the Market Place altogether.
“I would support a hydraulic barrier to prevent unauthorised access. Deliveries could still be made by giving traders a remote control to activate it.”
Coun Sue Patience said: “I do realise that the Market Place is not used to its full potential, but if there could be some way that traffic restrictions could be relaxed during the winter months to allow some parking, it would be useful in inclement weather.”
But Coun Hewison responded: “If you send out the message that people are allowed to park in the Market Place, the situation will never improve.”
Taken to the vote, it was agreed that the town council’s preferred option would be total pedestrianisation, which will be taken to the working group for discussion.