Pedestrian priority to be considered again

PLANS to give an Alnwick town centre street pedestrian priority will be explored again, despite the idea incurring the wrath of some traders in the past.

Coun Bruce Hewison has called for the town council to reopen discussions on whether to limit traffic on Narrowgate, involving Alnwick Chamber of Trade (Act).

“When I was part of the chamber, we did have a meeting with businesses in Narrowgate who said they were finding it very tough in increasing footfall,” he told this month’s meeting of the town council. “If it was given a pedestrian priority, more people might feel inclined to walk down Narrowgate.

“Because of the traffic situation and narrow pavements, people don’t feel safe walking down there.”

Coun Gordon Castle said: “This keeps being raised – I have dealt with it three times as a county councillor, but we can’t be forcing an issue onto the town if it is not welcome.

“I don’t think the situation is satisfactory, the street needs to be much more pedestrian-friendly. We are not talking about banning vehicles from that area.”

It was agreed to approach the chamber of trade and set up a meeting.

Businesses on Narrowgate gave a supportive, albeit cautious, reaction to the proposal when contacted by the Gazette on Monday.

One trader, who asked not to be named because formal discussions have not yet taken place, said: “I think it could work quite well, but it depends on the access arrangements for traffic. If they are just going to close the road off, that would not help. If there is going to be seating area outside the cafes, that could be quite nice because Narrowgate has beautiful architecture. If it’s done properly, it could be good for the town.”

The plan last looked set to be moving ahead in May last year, after proposals were put forward by Act to pedestrianise the section of Narrowgate between Paikes Street and the junction with Fenkle Street.

At an earlier meeting, traders on the street gave their overwhelming support, which was echoed by the town council, although some businesses on Bondgate Within were less than happy with the idea.

However, in June 2010, county highways said the proposals, as they stood, were riddled with difficulties and faced a lengthy consultation process. They also warned that any objections could spark a public inquiry, incurring a potentially massive cost to the taxpayer.

Act decided to postpone the plans indefinitely.