Alan Castle: Sort out Market Place parking fiasco

EXACTLY a year ago, the Gazette carried the following: ‘A campaign to crack down on illegal parking is being launched at Alnwick Market Place after more than a decade of it being a free-for-all.

‘Northumbria Police is set to tackle parking and speeding across north Northumberland in the run-up to summer.

‘And after continuous complaints about drivers leaving their cars in the town square, the focus will be on eradicating the problems there.’

But then, surprise, surprise, the following appeared in print in February this year: ‘An ‘unenforceable’ parking ban in the historic centre Alnwick may have to be changed, council bosses have been warned.’

That after they had been talking about the problem for months.

A report to a meeting of Northumberland County Council admitted no proposals had been forthcoming and that further discussions were necessary to tackle an anomaly surrounding parking in the Market Place. The site contained 37 short-term bays until 1999, when the now defunct Alnwick District Council was given £295,000 by the European Union to pedestrianise and overhaul the square, with vehicles banned.

Calls have since been made to allow a return of parking, with businesses saying the ban had affected their trade. They claimed the Market Place had become a void in the heart of the town.

The reinstatement of parking was discussed in 2002 and again in 2006, when district council bosses said they would have to repay the European grant if cars returned. A report confirms there is no order restricting parking.

However, a traffic regulation order is in place which restricts vehicular access to the Market Place, except for loading and unloading, and with an exemption for emergency vehicles.

The report says a ‘difficulty’ arises whereby a person must be seen by a police officer driving into the Market Place and leaving, without loading or unloading their vehicle, in order for that person be reported for prosecution or a fixed penalty notice issued.

So there you have it. At the moment you can drive into the Market Place, park your car and walk away without paying for parking while in every street around you, the poor suckers who do not know, have to fork out at least 40p for a minimum of 30 minutes. Or, if you are like many others, stump up £110 for a year’s parking permit. So you can only be prosecuted if you do not load or unload goods but only if you are spotted leaving your car by a police officer. But how often do you see a policeman patrolling on foot the streets of Alnwick?

One day last week, I spotted 21 vehicles in the Market Place. On every day, with the exception of when there is a market taking place, cars and vans are parked.

So folks, if you want free parking in Alnwick head for the Market Place and take your chance. Northumberland County Council keeps talking about doing something but as usual nothing, it appears, is happening.

Could this be the county’s concession to Alnwick while Blyth, Ashington and the rest in the south east have no parking charges imposed?

IS it not about time that the charities in the area got together and worked out a strategy over the issue of bin collection bags put through residents’ letterboxes.

They are a bit like the London buses, you wait ages for one and then three come along together.

This week, Mrs C tells me that four such bags appeared through our letterbox.

I know Mrs C likes to spend but asking to put clothing in four bags in a week is ridiculous. It would appear that a round-the-table discussion by those involved in such collections would be helpful as Mrs C informs me that she recently disposed of 11 bags which she had not used and which had been left on the doorstep despite her efforts to return them to collectors.