Alan Castle: Paying to park is the biggest pain

THE other evening I had cause to visit Alnwick Infirmary and noticed that a large number of cars were exhibiting parking tickets.

I must admit that I resent paying for a parking ticket at any hospital.During my visit, I asked one of the nurses why there seemed to be more tickets than usual on cars. It appears that for the first time since the parking machines were installed in the car parks, the health authorities have been able to get someone who is willing to go around and issue parking tickets. And the fines are not cheap.

Not only are the public visiting the hospital affected, but so are some of, if not all of the nursing staff. If they come on duty and park there, they have to pay. And if community nurses have to go backwards and forwards from the surgery to visit patients, they have to put on a new parking ticket every time they return to base.

It’s evident that hospitals, like everywhere else, are hard-pressed for cash, but effectively charging the sick and even their own staff is a step too far, in my opinion.

So you have been warned – a ticket from a machine when you visit Alnwick Infirmary or the doctor’s surgery, if you are not a member of the Infirmary Drive practice, is now an essential.

But it’s not just hospitals where we find ourselves paying over the odds for our transport.

Just look at the prices displayed at the one and only Alnwick petrol station this week and you will see what I mean. It must be one of the most expensive in any town of comparable size in the country.

The Co-operative should be ashamed of themselves. They were set up to serve the public but they seem to have lost their way as far as petrol prices in Alnwick are concerned.

And when it comes to parking in rural Northumberland, there is still no fair play from the county council.

Here we are, years after the creation of the unitary authority – which was supposed to be about promoting equality across the county – and we’re still being taxed because we’re country mice. The south east continues to get a handsome subsidy from us in the form of totally free parking.

Yet no matter how much we protest, the southcentric administration refuses to acknowledge how unfair the existing system is.

No wonder people are illegally parking in Alnwick Market Place.

THERE were two excellent letters in the Gazette last week. One pointed out the sheer stupidity of people who collected their animals’ excretions in poo bags and then dumped them.

The second highlighted dog muck in one street in Alnwick.

Nearly every street in town has the same problem caused by owners who could not care less about their fellow human beings.

We all love of our animals, be they feathered or four-legged, but there is a minority who don’t give a monkey’s for the rest of us who have to walk the streets.

Some of the worst areas can be near schools and there is nothing worse than kids accidentally stepping in a pile of dog muck.

On some occasions, when you see the piles you would think the circus had just marched through, judging by the sizes of them.

While it appears to be very difficult for the authorities to get a successful prosecution, surely there are enough caring citizens out and about to report those responsible.

Often, a report in the Gazette is usually enough to get a short term answer to the problem. But, after the fuss has died down, it all starts again and we have to watch where we’re treading.

At least we no longer have packs of dogs roaming the town like we had a few decades ago and even stray dogs running loose are now a rarity.

The problem sits squarely with owners and they are responsible.