Road markings will be painted on to cobbles in Alnwick’s historic market place to advise people about loading bays, after a large number of drivers have been issued with penalty charge notices.
But the town’s Civic Society is not happy with the plan, saying it is reluctant to agree to additional markings in the square which detract from its historical character and setting.
The decision to introduce the words Loading Only within the numerous loading bays has been made by Northumberland County Council.
It comes after complaints about the lack of clarity over the parking arrangements in the Market Place.
The authority admits that the text might not be aesthetically pleasing, but feels that current signage is not sufficient and wants to cut down on the number of drivers being issued with penalties.
An email from a county-council officer, which has been seen by the Gazette, states: ‘I was originally asked to investigate potential improvements, due to the large amount of complaints that were received and large number of penalty charge notices being issued.
‘Parking Services received a large amount of complaints regarding the lack of clarity when parking in the Market Place. In normal circumstances a loading bay would consist of a bay marking and text on the carriageway with an accompanying sign.
‘As I understand it, the text was omitted because of complaints that the text would not be in fitting with the character of the town.
‘I do appreciate that the text will not be as pleasing on the eye as it would be without the text, but given the amount of vehicles receiving penalty charge notices in the Market Place, I think that signage alone is not sufficient.
‘This decision has also been made because of the large amount of tourists Alnwick attracts. As a local authority, we do not wish to be issuing penalty charge notices to visiting motorists who are used to seeing loading bays marked both with road marking and signs.
‘This will not only tarnish their experience of visiting Alnwick, but may also put them off from visiting again.’
The Civic Society was consulted on the plan and the group’s chairman Peter Ennor voiced concerns.
He said: “We were and still are reluctant to agree to additional markings in the Market Place which detract from its historical character and setting.
“It is incumbent on each driver to read the signs at the entrance to the Market Place and then read the post-mounted signs before parking in any bay.
“It is disingenuous to wilfully park in a loading bay then claim that they did not see the signs when caught out.
“There is perhaps a case for an extra post-mounted sign on the long bay on the west side of the Market Place.
“We had been promised that a new neater technique for applying lettering to cobbles would be used but we pointed out that recent re-marking of the designated parking area on Bondgate cobbles did not encourage us.
“In itself, the proposed new lettering is not a major issue, but it is small incremental changes such as this which are steadily eroding the unique character of the conservation area.”
Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle has voiced his support for the plans. He told the Gazette that he understood that the work would take place ‘pretty soon’.
He said: “I am quite comfortable with the rationale and proposal. We must take a balanced view of this and accept that conservation cannot mean an entirely unblemished environment and practicality has to come into this.”