Calls for more seasonal parking and campervan facilities on Northumberland coast

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Coastal communities in Northumberland have called for better management of visitors to avoid a repeat of some of this summer’s chaotic scenes.

Concerns about parking, traffic congestion, litter and overnight camping were the main issues highlighted at a special coastal summit organised by Northumberland County Council.

The summer saw unprecedented visitor numbers from Berwick to Cresswell as Covid-19 restrictions led to a significant increase in ‘staycation’ holidays and day-trip visits.

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That is backed up by statistics which show hotspots such as Bamburgh had an 85% increase in visitors to its main car park in September 2020 compared to the September 2019.

Bamburgh's main car park in August.Bamburgh's main car park in August.
Bamburgh's main car park in August.

Elsewhere, car park visitors to Beadnell increased by 67% in the same period, while Craster was up 28% and Seahouses by 10%.

There were also nearly 70,000 ticket sales in council car parks in August alone.

Paul Jones, the council’s director of local services, said: “There were significant displacement issues throughout the summer in terms of parking behaviour. Some of it occurred purely because of capacity issues due to the sheer number of people coming to the countryside.

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“Places such as Bamburgh had significantly higher levels (85%) of car visitors compared to the same time the previous year. Seahouses had the most visitors but in terms of change between this year and last it probably had the least impact (10%).”

Campervans at Alnmouth beach car park.Campervans at Alnmouth beach car park.
Campervans at Alnmouth beach car park.

The influx put pressure on infrastructure such as public toilets with portable loos brought in to reduce queues.

Litter has also been a problem along, while fly camping and campervan issues have been raised in places like Alnmouth.

“That has generated a whole range of complaints, predominantly around littering, fires, and toileting with human waste left in areas where it is inappropriate such as in the dunes,” said Mr Jones.

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"Some of the issue has been a festival type mentality from some visitors. I don’t want to demonise people but some have camped out and left everything behind from bottles to tents.”

The council had issued 44 penalty charge notices for overnight parking in its car parks over the summer compared to seven in 2019.

Several parish council representatives highlighted issues in their areas.

Adam Shanley, clerk of Craster Parish Council, said: “Residents are getting to the end of their tether.”

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Concerns were also raised about traffic congestion at Dunstan Steads and Buston Links where Northumberland Estates closed the access road.

Cllr Adrian Hinchcliffe, vice chairman of Boulmer Parish Council, said: “We are desperate for more off-street car parking in Boulmer, coupled with parking restrictions.”

Cllr Terence Howells, chairman of Embleton Parish Council, spoke about congestion on Sea Lane, the narrow road leading to Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club.

Cllr Jeff Watson, member for Amble West with Warkworth, said: "We need to facilitate overnight parking for camper vans, not ban them, because they will keep moving on somewhere else. We need a strategy that accommodates them.”

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Other suggestions included discussions with landowners to find more seasonal parking, more enforcement and giving visitors advance warning of full car parks.

Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “Visitors are welcome, of course, but they have brought significant pressure to a number of areas. We have got to find compromise and a solution that is amenable to both residents and visitors.”

It was agreed to hold a follow-up meeting in the new year.

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