Action plan as eyesore Alnwick bus station sparks anger again

Alnwick Bus Station
Alnwick Bus Station

An action plan has been drawn up for Alnwick bus station with improvement works planned for this year and into the future.

The announcement of what is proposed to be done in 2018 comes as the state of the dirty, litter-strewn facility sparked fury on Monday, with plenty of debate on social media.

The mess at Alnwick bus station on Monday morning. Picture by Andrea Field

The mess at Alnwick bus station on Monday morning. Picture by Andrea Field

Alnwick Town Council started discussions last July with bus operator Arriva, the bus-station freehold owner Morrisons, Northumberland County Council and police to draw up initial improvements – while planning a route towards more substantial improvements for beyond 2018, provided that funding can be secured.

The package of works proposed for this year includes repairs to the roof, with recladding of the underside; new, brighter and vandal-proof LED lighting to discourage anti-social behaviour; removal of all unsightly and unnecessary steel barriers; jet washing of all surfaces; repainting and re-landscaping.

Once this has been done, it will be essential to maintain the bus station fully, with appropriate cleansing.

Arriva and Morrisons are also looking into working with Alnwick in Bloom to deliver environmental improvement works.

The bus station on Tuesday morning after it was cleaned. By Andrea Field

The bus station on Tuesday morning after it was cleaned. By Andrea Field

On top of this, as part of the community action proposals in the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, the town council has made budget provision for improved signage and information at the bus station and this is expected to be provided as part of the improvement works in 2018.

Coun Gordon Castle, Alnwick town and county councillor, also intends to seek provision of a security presence at the site through Northumberland County Council.

“This is not just a bus station, it is a gateway to the town and the first thing which many visitors see as they arrive,” Coun Castle said.

“It is presently an eyesore and not in keeping with the rest of our attractive market town, suffering from the accumulation of dirt and rubbish and the congregation of people who are not bus users.

“Alnwick Town Council actually has no powers to improve the bus station or take action against those who abuse the facility, the police have only limited powers.

“It is intended that this working group can facilitate actions which will make Alnwick bus station into something much better.”

The group will meet again on Wednesday, February 21, to hear a progress report from Morrisons and Arriva and consider possible future improvements.

In December 2016, we reported that high-tech CCTV was going live at the bus station as part of ongoing, concerted efforts to tackle disorder.

Police and partners were concerned about the low-level fear of crime by residents and tourists created by the presence of groups of youths who use the bus station as a meeting point and throw litter around despite there being sufficient bins.

In response, Arriva invested in a comprehensive, high-definition system, which was to be used to identify anyone committing criminal or anti-social behaviour.

In August last year, a new CCTV system began watching over the centre of Alnwick following investment by the town council.

Images from this system are beamed back to Alnwick Police Station and recorded 24/7 to maximise public safety and to provide evidence as required.

Initially, it was hoped that the bus-station system could also be linked into this system.

However, this week, Coun Castle said: “The bus-station CCTV is installed and operated by Arriva and goes to their head office in Bedlington and not to Alnwick Police Station. There are technical reasons why it can’t.

“For this reason, Alnwick Town Council is to consider funding an additional camera at the bus station that can be so used.”

In September last year, we also reported that a separate campaign had been launched to try to transform Alnwick’s eyesore bus station, with James Matthewson, chairman of the Alnwick Branch Labour Party, forming a new development trust for the town, called Hotspur Development Trust, and launching a search for trustees.

It came six years after Alnwick Community Development Trust – operated by different people – folded.

He said: “The former development trust did some great things in Alnwick, so I have started and registered a new development trust. I am really excited about it and it has got the potential to really benefit the town.

“The bus station will be our first project and we want to work with everyone, including the town council, Morrisons, Arriva and the county council, and it is important that we look at all of the options.

“I know that finance could be an issue with the redevelopment of the bus station and a development trust can raise funds and apply for grants.”

UNTIDY STATE OF BUS STATION CRITICISED

Cans, wrappers and packets covering the floor – a sea of litter greeted Alnwick bus station users on Monday morning.

And the situation was so bad, it prompted a string of disgruntled residents to contact the Gazette to complain about the state of the terminal.

Posting on our Facebook page a picture of rubbish all over the floor, Andrea Field wrote: ‘Alnwick bus station, 11.20am, 08.01.2018. A wonderful advert and welcome to our town! Something must be done about this.’

Meanwhile, an Alnwick resident – who has picked up litter at the bus station in the past – came into the Gazette office to raise her concerns about the facility’s shoddy appearance. The resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It makes me so angry. It is anti-social and it is unnecessary.”

We were also called by a Lesbury resident, who wanted to stay anonymous, who said: “I arrived in Alnwick by bus at about 9.15am and the station looked absolutely disgusting – and I am partially sighted! Every single person was making comment about it. If I was a visitor and that was my first impression of Alnwick, I would get straight back on the bus and go somewhere else.”

There was also much discussion and criticism on the Northumberland Newsdesk Facebook page. It also isn’t the first time that the bus station’s appearance has been criticised.

However, the rubbish was cleared and on Tuesday morning, Andrea Field followed up on her previous complaint by posting a picture of a tidied bus station with the words: ‘Alnwick bus station 09.01.2018, 10.30am. What a difference from yesterday. Thank you to whoever was responsible for cleaning up that mess, I wouldn’t have wanted to tackle it.’

WHO’S IN CHARGE OF LITTER AND BINS?

The land on which Alnwick bus station is situated is owned by Morrisons and leased by Arriva.

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman explained that the local authority doesn’t have control over the cleaning of the facility.

It is Arriva’s responsibility to clean the station and it has a schedule for doing this.

At the request of Alnwick Town Council, the county council relocated two litter bins into the waiting area of the bus station a few years ago and these are emptied on a daily basis.

The county council’s environmental enforcement officers pay particular attention to the busy bus-station area when they are in Alnwick and over the last 12 months, have issued fixed penalty notices for littering in this area.