ALAN CASTLE: Cars rule roost in Market Place

Parking in Alnwick Market Place.
Parking in Alnwick Market Place.

The situation in Alnwick Market Place is an utter farce.

It has been a problem for years and I predict it will remain so for many more to come.

After much debate over parking in the primary space in the heart of this ancient community, Alnwick Town Council agreed a compromise in September 2012, whereby a few parking bays would be marked alongside the Northumberland Hall.

Those parking bays would be short stay – very short stay – just 30 minutes.

But since then, what has happened? Absolutely nothing!

We are still waiting for a county-council bod, armed with a brush and a tub of paint, to mark out those bays.

In the meantime, motorists have twigged that they cannot be prosecuted for parking in the Market Place unless a police officer spies them driving in and abandoning their cars.

You can’t blame drivers for leaving their chariots in a random fashion – there are no guidelines to follow.

But some sense of responsibility, a feeling of pride in their town, should have prevailed.

Oh no, it has been chaos in the Market Place for more than a year now.

Two human traits have been to blame – the desire to avoid forking out for the parking charges the rest of us must pay and downright laziness. People simply cannot be bothered to walk a few extra yards to buy their sarnie or whatever. Pathetic!

The mess in the town’s focal point has been brought into sharp focus this week by the abandonment of a blood-donor session because the lorry could not get parked near enough to the Northumberland Hall.

I have long said that the mix of pedestrians and vehicles in a market square does not work.

There is too much confusion and far too much risk of an accident happening. How many times have you seen a car left in the middle of a market because the driver didn’t realise an event was being held?

In just the year-and-a-half it has taken to put in place the proposed scheme, times have moved on considerably.

Firstly, Alnwick, along with other Northumberland market towns, is about to get free parking – that should solve the problem of people seeking to avoid paying to park. It doesn’t address their laziness, but nothing ever will!

Secondly, Alnwick is lagging miles behind Morpeth, in particular, in the quality of experience offered to shoppers.

Creating a few parking bays will not help.

Alnwick has something Morpeth and many other towns do not have – an amazing market place. So, what do we do with it? Do we put on weekly events to make it a vibrant space to attract visitors? Do we employ a town manager to oversee events in the space? Do we attract high-class independent traders there to give shoppers a real reason to visit? Do we use it almost as an open-air art gallery with statues, performance artists, musicians, etc?

NO, WE TURN IT INTO A CAR PARK – GENIUS!

The folk of Amble have far more ambition, drive and imagination and before long it will take over as the most desirable destination in north Northumberland.