Alan Castle: Time for a proper solution to this mess

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IT can be best described as one down and one to go in the saga that is Alnwick Market Place.

Let us at first deal with the welcome, although late, U-turn by Northumberland County Council not to impose a tax on cafés which put tables on pavements.

You will find tables out in the Market Place and in the summer they are well used at the three establishments that provide them. In fact, they are an asset and bring a touch of the Continent to Northumberland’s county town.

The decision to charge for the privilege understandably met with an outcry of protest from café owners throughout the county when it was first suggested.

Under the new system, certain restrictions will be involved, and rightly so, that there must be a high standard of street furniture for customers to use and this should be welcomed.

The second part of the problem, highlighted by town Mayor Alan Symmonds, is that parking in the Market Place is ‘very messy’. I would say this is an understatement, if ever there was one.

He raised the matter at a meeting with county council officials and councillors, where it was decided to re-ignite efforts to find a solution to this ongoing problem. At present, a motorist can drive into the Market Place and park free of charge, despite passing signs which say the area is for loading and unloading only. They can only be issued with a ticket if they are seen passing the sign and leaving their vehicle.

Even in April, when parking enforcement transfers from police hands to the county council, the latter will not be able to issue tickets because it is still classed as a highway. A dog’s breakfast if ever there was one.

The county is now, following the Mayor’s pleas for a solution, renewing its efforts to find an answer to this long-term problem. Many have tried and thought they had succeeded in the past and I say good luck to these efforts.

I protested at the start when the table tax was first implemented and campaigned against what I see as unfairness when people pay up their parking dues and others drive past notices and get away with free parking. No justice in that, and time for a quick-fire solution that lasts the test of time.

NO one can argue that crossroads on a dual carriageway are anything but a potential danger and an accident waiting to happen.

In recent years there have been a number of serious collisions at the junctions linking Swarland and Newton on the Moor with the A1.

Over recent decades, a large number of homes have been built in the area, especially at Swarland, and in today’s commuting household, where two cars or more seems to be the norm, traffic flow has increased greatly. Add the increased traffic on the A1, with its speeding vehicles, and accidents are more than likely to follow.

The decision to cut the local bus services to and from the villages is also likely to add to the problem.

Often you can see lorries and buses with their tail-end sticking out into the carriageway as they try to leave the central reservations.

Slip roads are the answer and the quicker they are built the better.

I NOW find I am in a nightmare – probably of my own creation.

When I read the letters page of a recent Gazette there was a headline across five columns: ‘The pull of the tall, dark stranger that’s Mr Castle’.

I did have a dream at Christmas that the Beadnell Harbour row had been settled and the massive long letters to the Gazette had ended.

Then I pick up the Gazette and find I myself have become the subject of a long letter from one of the protagonists at Beadnell.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.