Alnwick Town Council: Agreement over town allotments

AGREEMENT has been reached over the future management of allotments at Ratten Row in Alnwick, after the town council agreed to support plot-holders by retaining the lease for the next three years.

Back in November, councillors asked for a three-way meeting to be arranged involving Northumberland Estates, which owns the site but had declined to council requests for a 10-year lease.

There were fears that if management of the allotments reverted to the Estates, there would be nothing to stop the land being used for other purposes.

At Alnwick Town Council on Thursday night, members heard that the meeting had taken place in December. Clerk Bill Batey said: “Northumberland Estates has now indicated that they will offer the council a three-year lease.

“The allotment-holders’ preference was for the town council to continue to manage the allotments and take up the three-year lease on offer.

“Members of the allotment working group feel that the proposed arrangement will give more certainty than the existing arrangement and makes investment in the site justifiable.”

Coun Patience: “We’ve got a number of volunteers who have come forward to look at ways to improve the allotments.”

Coun Castle added: “I’d like to say well done to the councillors who were involved in getting this sorted for the allotment-holders, who I am sure will be a lot happier with the situation now.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to enter into a three-year lease with Northumberland Estates.

ANGER CONTINUES: A strongly-worded letter will be sent to Northumberland County Council by Alnwick town councillors, to protest at the continuing disparity in funding to arts venues by the unitary authority.

Following comments made by Mayor Alan Symmonds at the State of the Area debate last week, the town council said it would not ‘remain quiet’ about County Hall giving far less to Alnwick Playhouse than it does to the Queen’s Hall in Hexham and Berwick Maltings.

Coun Castle said: “I think there is a feeling at the county council that this issue will go away if they continue to ignore it, but we should not let that happen.

“There is clearly a huge disparity in council funding between the three venues, which is blamed on the arrangements inherited from the former district and borough councils.

“I’d like the town council to take a view on this and request a formal answer from the county council. It is wrong that the Playhouse continues to suffer from this disparity.”

Coun Jim Thompson added: “I was involved with the Playhouse in its early days and the county council did not give any funding, even though it supported other venues at the time. They have done very little to support our arts venue.”

It was unanimously agreed to write to the county.

LIFE-SAVER: Plans to install potentially life-saving equipment in a decommissioned phone box at Cedar Grove have been switched to a similar kiosk at Bailiffgate, following discussions.

In October, Alnwick Town Council agreed to participate in a scheme offered by North East Ambulance Service to turn the disused call-box into a defibrillator point, but concerns over its accessibility from the town centre prompted a rethink.

Now, the equipment – which is kept in a locked cabinet with keycode access – will be fitted to the kiosk at the Narrowgate end of Bailiffgate.

Coun Castle said: “It’s a much more sensible location, nearer to the town centre where there is greater footfall.”

Coun Ken Gray added: “Common sense has prevailed.”

BT has agreed to sell the kiosk to the council for a pound, which will be insured by the authority against potential vandalism.

TOILETS SLAMMED: Public toilets in Alnwick are in a ‘disgusting’ state, according to town councillors.

Both the conveniences in the Shambles and the county council-run loos at Greenwell Lane were heavily criticised for not only their cleanliness but also the dilapidated condition of their fixtures, doors and walls.

Coun Blakey said: “The ones in the Shambles are absolutely disgusting – I would not let a dog go in there to do its business.”

Coun Ritchie Waddell added: “The toilets give a very bad impression of Alnwick to visitors. We should have spot-on toilets.”

It was agreed to contact Northumberland County Council with concerns about maintenance of the Greenwell Lane facilities.

BLOOMING GREAT: Town councillors have agreed to give a grant of £300 to this year’s Alnwick Spring Show, which will be staged at Willowburn Sports Centre instead of its traditional venue of The Alnwick Garden.

A proposal by Coun Blakey to give £350 was voted down, following concerns from Coun Patience over the increasing demands on the recreation and amenities budget.

All councillors voted for a £300 grant, apart from Coun Sara Walton, who voted against.

GETTING BETTER: An inspection of footpaths in Alnwick has been carried out, the town council has heard, which has resulted in works being carried out at some of the worst spots.

It followed a request to the county council at the town’s December meeting, after complaints that some pavements were in a poor state of repair.

County councillor Gordon Castle said: “The inspection did take place and found that there were lots of areas which needed attention.

“The most serious parts were on the Cobbles and there has been some work already done.”