Editor’s comment: Ditch your cars, the asteroid is coming ...

GOOD old Alnwick Market Place and the unenforceable parking ban – I see it’s back on the council agenda.

About time too. Have you seen the state of the square lately? The only word to describe what is happening there is random. With a capital R.

I happened to pass through at the end of last week to find a hotch-potch of badly-parked vehicles from end-to-end, with no rhyme or reason as to the way they had been left. It evoked images of a disaster movie – you know the type, where an asteroid is heading towards earth and everyone abandons their cars on the highway and runs for the hills.

So it was with a mixture of amusement and annoyance that I watched a visitor in a motorhome – you know, a posh version of a camper van – trying to weave his way through this four-wheeled obstacle course. He came in, obviously unaware of what he was about to encounter, unsure whether he was actually entering a car park or not.

Within 10 yards he found his way barred by a wall of discarded vehicles, with not enough room to squeeze between them and head for the exit. Undaunted, he attempted to reverse, only to find another two or three cars waiting immediately behind him. This chap was stuck, and I mean well and truly.

I didn’t hang around long enough to witness the aftermath, other than to say that the result of such stupid, inconsiderate parking was absolute and utter mayhem in the Market Place.

So what’s the solution? Well, it depends on which camp you fall into. Some traders seem to think this kind of free-for-all is beneficial and that controlled parking should be reintroduced. Others howl at the prospect and gnash their teeth at the despoiling of Alnwick’s historic heart. A third way has been mentioned in the past, to allow some limited parking alongside the Northumberland Hall.

Here’s my opinion – close it to traffic, with the exception of deliveries or, if need be, the emergency services. That’s it. Simple. Don’t confuse motorists, who obviously haven’t got the gumption to park in straight lines if there are no marked bays. Before I hear the cry ‘It will kill the Market Place!’, let’s just remember that the last time parking was officially sanctioned there, until 1999, it amounted to just 37 short-term bays. Yes, you could pull in, nip out and grab what you were after, then scoot off. Yes, it was convenient. But so what? You can do exactly the same on Bondgate Within, or Fenkle Street. The only difference is that you have to walk 100 yards.

But what about disabled shoppers? Easy. Designate all the bays just outside the Market Place entrance as disabled-only.

In fact, let’s go further. Let’s pedestrianise Bondgate Within, from the Hotspur Tower to the junction of Fenkle Street with Narrowgate. Put a large turning circle – maybe with a piece of public art – at the junction of Market Street and Bondgate Within. Traffic can come down from Clayport and still use the cobbles to park, heading back out the same way.

Traffic arriving at the Hotspur Tower from Bondgate Without can either turn right to park in Greenwell Lane – where more disabled spaces could be made available – or turn left up Hotspur Street to use Roxburgh Place car park, which should be given a complete overhaul. But you can’t direct all that traffic along Green Batt, I hear you say? Yes, you can. Every lorry and bus does it already, as the tower prevents their entry.

The reality is that Alnwick was never designed for the sheer volume of traffic it currently experiences. Short of bulldozing the town centre and starting again, we can’t really change what we have, so let’s work on addressing the demands of bone-idle motorists instead.

You have no right to expect to park directly outside the shops in Alnwick town centre. If you visit the MetroCentre, do you drive into the centre of the mall? No – you park and walk.