TRAFFIC PLAN: Villagers need to have a say

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I was unable to be present at this month’s meeting of Alnmouth Parish Council so I have no direct knowledge of events there, but I am not at all surprised that a discussion of Alnmouth’s new traffic arrangements generated the anger and resentment you reported last week.

Councillor Gordon Castle may well say that he has never seen a scheme that was so consulted upon; that just illustrates how unfit for purpose NCC Highways consultation process is.

The parish council had been concerned about traffic problems in Alnmouth for some years, had made progress in resolving some of them with NCC Highways, and was pressing for others to be addressed.

So we welcomed the review of village traffic and parking, which was initiated this year.

However, one would expect a review process to involve some discussions, on site, between the parish council and NCC officials.

No such discussions took place.

Instead, earlier this year, an official from Highways came to a parish council meeting with maps of half a dozen different potential schemes.

We were permitted a fleeting look at them but were not allowed to keep any copies for a more detailed study.

Later in the summer there was an exhibition at which the different schemes were displayed to the public, who were invited to give comments on each in writing.

The parish council was given an assurance by NCC officials that when Highways had developed their proposals they would discuss them with us before going ahead. This just did not happen.

In October we were told that a scheme had been finalised.

No discussion, no feedback, no justification of that particular solution, no explanation of why traffic flow had been prioritised over other concerns, and no accounting for the loss of an estimated 90 parking spaces despite a lack of parking being a major issue in the village.

NCC Highways did not consult in any meaningful sense of the word and their refusal to talk to the parish council was disgraceful.

The parish council represents the residents of the village and has the local knowledge.

As a result NCC Highways failed to understand the initial brief and produced a scheme which, although it does resolve a few problems, has produced many more and is widely unpopular.

Apart from the impact on residents, there are serious concerns about the effect of reduced parking space on the holiday business, upon which this village depends, and the overall visual appearance of the scheme seems more appropriate for a new roundabout on the A19 than the conservation area of a coastal village which actually does not have any through traffic.

Of course, it is only an experiment for one year and will be changed if it does not work. In particular we should not judge its success or otherwise before it has seen a busy summer season.

A real concern, however, is that residents have been asked to send in their comments and observations but have been told not to expect any reply, so Highway’s evaluation of the scheme could be a similarly secret process.

Their record to date does not inspire confidence.

They really do need to learn that involving the community in their decisions means that they must engage in dialogue now and again.

Bill Bourne

Chair, Alnmouth Parish Council