Craster is attracting increasing numbers of visitors and tourists and in peak season, the Quarry car park quickly becomes full, meaning vehicles park along the main access road and within the village itself, with inappropriate parking also causing problems for buses.
Craster Parish Council has been working with Northumberland County Council to address issues and priorities for improvement with the two authorities and the area’s ward councillor, Wendy Pattison, identifying parking capacity as being a key problem.
In response to this, the county council has drawn up a possible design for additional parking spaces in an extension to the car park and views on this initial design from the local community were sought at the recent Craster parish meeting.
Extending the car park within its quarry area could mean a further 48 spaces, bringing the total capacity to 148 vehicles.
If the proposal was to proceed further, then it has been suggested that the project would be self-financing with the estimated development cost of £225,000 being funded by a modest increase in parking charges at the site.
It is estimated that the works would take around four months to complete, if planning approval was given, and would include the installation of netting around the rock face to protect parked cars from damage from any falling stone.
Construction would have to take place over the quiet winter period as it would impact on the existing parking area.
Coun Glen Sanderson, the county council’s cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “We have come up with what we believe would be a feasible solution to alleviate the car-parking issues that the village experiences.
“We must stress that this is at the feasibility stage and following the positive feedback from the recent parish-council meeting, we will now be seeking internal budget approvals, before engaging with other key stakeholders in order to begin to take it to further detailed design and costing stages.
“We would also hold a public exhibition to share the detailed proposals with the local community to get their comments and further refine the scheme, ahead of any planning application being submitted.
“Irrespective of what happens with the car park, we intend to progress with an extension to the speed limit on the main road from Dunstan to Craster, by introducing a new traffic regulation order. We hope that this will also help pedestrians to walk more safely along the road by addressing some of the parking issues.”
Coun Wendy Pattison, for the Longhoughton ward, said: “I am very pleased that we have got to the stage where we have an outline scheme what would seem to address the issues that have been raised locally.
“I look forward to this moving forward to the next stage and once we have a detailed design, we will be speaking further to local residents, businesses and stakeholder organisations about this, and very much welcome their views.”
Coun Bryn Owen, chairman of the parish council, said: “Last year, Craster Parish Council submitted a petition asking the county council to increase the car-park fees and spend the money to improve the facilities for residents and tourists.
“This was supported by most residents and at the meeting there was unanimous support for this exciting proposal.
“Getting visitors to pay for improvements to infrastructure means that the burden is removed from the small number of residents and this was the essence of the petition. We look forward to the project progressing and to being involved in the consultation process.”
Northumberland County Council is also offering further support to the village in order to see improvements in infrastructure and facilities for visitors. This will include support in seeking to secure funding for visitor information services and also support for improvements to footpaths and maintenance of paths.