Alnwick councillors give pedestrianisation plans the green light
Town councillors have approved controversial plans to pedestrianise an Alnwick street.
A traffic-free trial of Narrowgate has split opinion since it was introduced in July 2019.
Plans to make the move permanent were approved by a large majority at Alnwick Town Council’s meeting on Thursday night.
It will now go to Northumberland County Council for a final decision.
Along with the permanent pedestrianisation of Narrowgate, there are plans for an improvement scheme for the turning area in Bondgate Within and at the Fenkle Street/Market Street junction.
If approved, further consultation would then be carried out on the design and appearance of the ‘streetscape’ of the pedestrianised area.
Cllr Gordon Castle, local ward member on Northumberland County Council, spoke in favour of the scheme.
He said: "It’s now a matter of getting it approved by Northumberland County Council and finding the funding required to make a first class job of it, as we must.
"Concerns were raised about finding the money and the possible length of time it will take.
"Money is already committed to design work. The proposal includes looking to improve the turning circle arrangements and the junction of Fenkle Street/Market Street.”
The most recent public consultation carried out last autumn found 62% of 527 respondents were in favour of the move with 38% against.
The trial was meant to be a 12-month experiment but the ongoing Covid pandemic led to it being extended.
Traffic count data showed that, comparing the weeks immediately before and after the closure was introduced, the average daily traffic increased by 149% on Fenkle Street and 20% on Market Street.
A survey carried out in October 2019 found that 55% preferred the original layout in Narrowgate.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of businesses in Narrowgate stated that trading had increased, while 60% of those in Bondgate Within said trading had decreased.
Following the lifting of Covid restrictions, the Alnwick Forum agreed to a final consultation. It found that 329 (62%) were in favour of permanent pedestrianisation with 198 (38%) against.
Of these, 64% with an address in Alnwick were in favour, 83% on Narrowgate approved and 78% on Bondgate Within were against.
The council report to members concluded: ‘The trial closure of Narrowgate has shown that a pedestrianisation scheme is feasible and that the effect on the wider town centre road network is generally acceptable.
‘The two main issues on the road network are the Bondgate Within turning area and the Fenkle Street/Market Street junction. It is recommended that both are addressed as part of the project.
‘The effect of the closure has been positive for those traders within Narrowgate.
‘Traders in Bondgate Within are generally against the closure, however, access to their premises is almost unchanged, with vehicles still able to park nearby.
‘The proposed pedestrianisation fits well with the role of Alnwick as a visitor attraction, adding to the existing offer and providing a link between the Castle and the Gardens.
‘The scheme also promotes walking, removes unnecessary through traffic and significantly improves the environment within the area closed to vehicles.’