Market Place collision sparks vehicle debate

A civil enforcement officer checks the cars parked in Alnwick Market Place. 
Picture by Jane Coltman
A civil enforcement officer checks the cars parked in Alnwick Market Place. Picture by Jane Coltman

A debate over vehicles using Alnwick Market Place has reared its head again, after a woman was hit by a car in the cobbled square.

The incident happened on Tuesday morning when the 56-year-old pedestrian was involved in a collision with a Citroën. She was taken to hospital with what was described by police as minor injuries.

However, it has sparked debate over whether cars should be allowed in the area. The issue of vehicular access has been a long-running and often complicated matter.

The current parking restrictions have been in place since June 2014, when new regulations came into force.

The scheme, originally agreed in September 2012, is designed to end the chaos of cars parking wherever they want in the square, while offering a compromise between vehicular and pedestrian use. There is a number of parking bays and loading bays.

After Tuesday’s incident, a number of people on Facebook criticised the current situation in the Market Place.

Writing on our page, Rebecca Lambert said: ‘I still don’t think parking should be allowed there. Delivery/work vehicles only. It’s a market square.’ Andrew Joseph Fleming added: ‘Does it take someone to die first before anything gets done?’ while Mikey Mann posted: ‘This was always going to happen. Why put vehicles and pedestrians in the same place?’

Meanwhile, Alnwick county councillor Heather Cairns branded the current situation a ‘recipe for disaster’. She added: “My knee-jerk reaction to this is the Market Place is better pedestrianised, but not everybody agrees with me. I don’t think we have got it right yet and I think it needs to be looked at again.”

However, Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle said: “I am sorry to hear about the collision. The Market Place is principally a place for events and events have priority, but when it is not being used in this way, it is a restricted car park. The problem with car parks where there is a conflict between vehicles and pedestrians is ever-present.

“Without knowing what happened, I can’t really comment, but one accident like this doesn’t amount to a reason for getting cars out of the Market Place, although what has happened is bound to raise the argument. I am sorry to hear about the accident, but I would say that the current parking situation in the Market Place has been a success overall.”

Both Coun Castle and Alnwick Mayor Bill Grisdale admitted that there has been discussions about the bay markings not being clear enough, and signage being too small. They said it was a balancing act between making things more clear and conserving the look of the Market Place.

Restrictions in the square

Parking is limited to 30 minutes in the 11 marked bays alongside the Northumberland Hall. There is another bay on the far left for motorbikes and another on the right-hand side for disabled drivers. There are loading bays to access the businesses in the Market Place on the other three sides of the square.

Couns Gordon Castle and Heather Cairns said discussions are ongoing, albeit at an early stage, about the possibility of creating pedestrian-priority zones in Alnwick. Coun Castle said: “I think we need to improve the town as being more pedestrian-friendly.”