Market Place parking solution

PARKING in Alnwick’s Market Place, which has been causing problems and dividing opinion for more than 10 years, could be controlled by double yellow lines in the future.

Currently the Market Place is supposed to be under the restriction of ‘prohibition of driving except for loading’, but on any given day more than 20 cars may be parked there.

The county council has taken over repsonsibility for parking enforcement but the existing restriction is classed as a ‘moving’ traffic offence and not a parking offence and therefore enforcement will remain with the police.

In a report to tonight’s meeting of the county council’s north area committee, the recommended solution is to keep the current ‘loading only’ restriction and introduce double yellow lines.

But Tom McKie, who owns The Lunchbox in the Market Place as well as Copperfields on Market Street, said this would be a disaster for traders.

“If they stop parking in the Market Place, that would kill the heart of the town,” he said.

“The people making decisions don’t have businesses in Alnwick. They don’t have a clue what they are talking about because they are not running businesses.

“Local businesses in the Market Place have been there for years and it will strangle them. When they started this stupid business 10 years ago, seven businesses closed in two years.

“It’s always full of parked cars, does that not tell them it’s needed?”

He admitted that something should be done, and said that putting parking bays down one side was a possible solution.

“To do away with it all together is just suicidal,” he added.

The other suggestions put forward in the county council report are leaving the restrictions as they are, removing all vehicles, removing all vehicles but giving businesses a key to a gate to let deliveries in and introducing parking bays.

Carlo Biagioni, chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, said that they favoured this latter option.

“I think if we do it in an orderly fashion with bays it would work,” he said. “Maybe for a short period of time, it used to be 20 minutes.

“Double yellow lines will affect some businesses and I don’t think double yellow lines is the answer for the Market Place, even for the look.

“We spent a fortune doing the cobbles. I think it would be a shame to put double yellow lines on top – it would look horrible.”

Alnwick’s Mayor Coun Alan Symmonds said while double yellow lines is ‘not the ideal solution’, it is perhaps ‘the most pragmatic solution’.

“What the county has put forward is what’s realistic,” he said.

“Some of us would like barriers of some sort or rising bollards, but I just cannot see that happening from a financial point of view and I expect it would be clumsy from the point of view of delivery vans.

“If you have double yellow lines, we want vigorous enforcement of double yellow lines. There needs to be dialogue with the police, who really need to enforce the current powers they have.

“It’s clear the meaning of ‘loading only’ has been stretched beyond all reasonable levels. We have put up with this nonsense long enough and now something needs to be done.”

He also said that providing parking bays was not a realistic solution as cars would drive in looking for spaces, making it ‘unacceptable’ for pedestrians, and cause issues at the exit junction onto Market Street.

Town and county councillor Gordon Castle agreed that the issue of traffic flow if parking bays were provided was a valid one, but did not want to rush his judgement until more information was provided, particularly on the subject of blue badge holders.

He wants to clarify whether blue badge holders would still be able to park in the Market Place as there would be no point in ‘replacing one unregulated group of cars parking with another’.