We refute vigorously allegations that organisers of the proposed adventure cycling area on agricultural land outside the town’s eastern boundary have not consulted residents adequately.
Mr Coghill-Marshall of Allerburn Lea, the UKIP hopeful who thinks he has found a local issue to exploit, suggests that organisers deliberately kept the public in the dark in order to slip this through. Total nonsense!
Neither of us is in charge of the project, but we have advised the organisers how to engage the public over the plans, which have been in gestation for five years.
The Northumberland Gazette reported comprehensive details of the project on June 16, 2011, including location and access arrangements via Fisher Lane, which were unanimously supported by Alnwick Town Council at its May meeting.
As soon as the scheme looked financially feasible, residents whose properties border Fisher Lane were invited to a meeting held in Alnwick Cricket Club to hear about how the plans might affect them in particular.
This was attended by about 15 people, some of whom objected to use of the lane as an access to the proposed field, which has been donated free of charge by Northumberland Estates.
The next step, after modifying the plans to safeguard pedestrians, was to organise a public meeting to which all interested parties were invited (about 60 turned up, including many supporters).
The Northumberland Gazette advertised this meeting the week before it was held in St Paul’s School and posters were circulated in various prominent locations around Alnwick.
Mr Coghill-Marshall thinks we should have put a letter through every door in Allerburn Lea, where he happens to live, ignoring the fact that the meeting was for everyone with an interest in the matter, not just him and nearby residents.
It is also richly ironic that he should air his objections in the very newspaper that he claims was inadequate for the purpose of notifying the public. People who choose not to read their local paper cannot expect to be terribly well-informed about what goes on in their local area, as it is used by the council to publicise planning notices, road closures and all manner of events.
Moreover, everyone who has complained to us about lack of publicity attended at least one of these meetings.
This project is designed to provide a proper venue for young cyclists to have some fun in a location away from the marketplace, bus station concourse, and even Allerburn Lea itself, where an unofficial cycle-track was closed down recently.
Organisers have taken on board legitimate concerns about potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on Fisher Lane, which is to be upgraded and have physical barriers installed to prevent cyclists reaching high speeds.
This is a public right of way maintained for the benefit of the whole community and there is no other access route suitable for cycles that they would be likely to use (vehicle access will be via Alnmouth Road).
The next step is for organisers to prepare a planning application, during which process anyone can have a say before it is determined.
Meanwhile, we strongly support this project, as does Alnwick Town Council and the police. Whatever our party political differences, both of us will continue to work together for the good of our constituency, as the public expects.
County councillors, Alnwick