Curtains go down on petrol panto

The ‘pantomime’ of a petrol station in Alnwick, which was often out of fuel, has been brought to an end and it may not re-open until spring 2013.

Alnwick Motorway Services, at Cawledge, has been beset with issues since it opened in June and two weeks ago it was reported that the staff had been made redundant.

Now, Northumberland Estates can confirm that as owners of the site, they have begun the legal process necessary to terminate the lease with the current operator.

The retail and fuel suppliers at the site, SPAR and BP, are supporting the Estates in this decision. Unfortunately, until the legalities can be concluded, the premises must remain closed.

Alnwick’s ward member, Coun Gordon Castle, said: “It’s bad news but at least it brings a bit of certainty, because you never knew if there was any fuel or not. It was a bit of a pantomime and it’s not been the best start for the site.”

John Vint, who runs Alnwick-based Sovereign Taxis, said that his view probably mirrors what everyone in the town feels. “It’s been an absolute joke,” he said. “We waited long enough for it and it’s been a joke.

“I can only use my fuel discount card, which saves aboout 5p a litre, at that petrol station and I haven’t been able to use it. It’s definitely cost me money.”

The Estates is hopeful that it will be possible to re-open in spring next year and resume a full service under new management.

In the meantime, the remaining stock and fuel have been removed and 24-hour security is in place.

Coun Castle said: “Clearly the operator has not done the job that was expected of him. I can only hope we get a credible operator who can deliver the service the public are expecting. We do need competition and we do need two petrol stations in Alnwick. Let’s hope they can sort out something as soon as possible.”

Colin Davidson, commercial property manager at Northumberland Estates, said: “Realising the value of this vital facility for the town, we have been pro-active in getting the situation with the existing leaseholder resolved as quickly as possible.

“Unfortunately the complexity of the legal process required to achieve this means that a short closure of the business is unavoidable. We hope to be in a position to confirm further details during January 2013.”

Repeated calls to Paul Abbott, director of operator Northumberland Fuel Services Ltd, from the Gazette have gone unanswered.