Concern at visitors 'coming from far and wide' to Northumberland coastal village

Concerns have been raised about people visiting a popular Northumberland village in lockdown.

Thursday, 14th January 2021, 7:00 am

Alnmouth Parish Council believes some visitors are travelling excessive distances for ‘exercise’ in breach of the Government’s ‘stay local’ message.

Similar concerns have been echoed in the likes of Craster, Rothbury and Wooler.

Cllr Mac McHugh said: “There are some mornings I look out the window and there is a big crowd standing on Northumberland Street waiting for coffee.

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"People are coming from far and wide, not just Alnwick, and parking up and having coffees. They are standing congregating in more than groups of two or three.

"I am happy for people to come to the beach but I think there are issues with the shops bringing people into the village.”

It was agreed to ask Northumberland County Council to reintroduce electronic signage promoting a Covid-19 ‘essential travel only’ message on the approaches to the village.

Cllr Ed Williams said: “I think the guidance is very clear. It says ‘don’t leave your village or town’ but it’s not embedded in law.

"It’s the long-distance visitors coming to the Northumberland coast that I’d be worried about.

"The signs may deter a few people from making the journey.

"It’s not just coming to the beach, it’s going to the Post Office and coffee shop as well and potentially spreading it in that way.”

The discussion was prompted by a question on whether it is permissible for Alnwick residents to drive to places like Alnmouth for exercise.

Cllr Susanne Gair said: “I think a lot of people would consider Alnmouth was local if you live in Alnwick in terms of taking exercise and you wanted to take a two or three mile walk.”

Cllr Gordon Castle, local county councillor, revealed he had asked Insp John Swan for clarification.

Cllr Castle said: “In view of some confusion and questions put to me, I asked our local Police Inspector.

“His answer was that you are advised by Government not to leave your local area for exercise if you can exercise locally. This is advice and cannot be enforced as law.

"Now, the view of the police is that there are plenty of options around Alnwick for going exercising and walking.

"You cannot be prevented from driving a few miles to local places for exercise, but the advice remains that you should avoid driving if you can.

"Naturally, people living in more rural parts may have to drive into Alnwick for supplies.”

He said the county council had no current plans to close car parks, public toilets and rubbish tips as it did in the first lockdown.

“If cases continue to rise I personally think we can expect a more severe lockdown of the kind we had in March 2020,” he said.

"If things don’t improve that is something we must look at but, at the moment, the view is that many people use car parks other than visitors.

"If you close them and people still drive there – which isn’t prevented by law – then they are going to park where they shouldn’t. There is quite a risk that it would make things worse rather than better so the council’s view at the moment is that they’re staying open.”

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