Timely action wanted on parking pledges

The meeting to discuss parking issues in Alnmouth.
The meeting to discuss parking issues in Alnmouth.

Council officers have vowed to undertake a traffic survey in a north Northumberland coastal village plagued by parking problems.

The promise was made at a public meeting in Alnmouth this week, although residents are frustrated that the issues have been raised repeatedly since 2011, but nothing has yet been done.

County councillors Heather Cairns and Gordon Castle, who chaired the meeting, pointed out that they only took responsibility for the ward containing Alnmouth in 2013 and vowed that they would do what they could.

Also at the meeting was Margaret Robinson, the county council’s programme and production manager, responsible for the Local Transport Plan, alongside two officers from the highways department.

She summarised the issues in Alnmouth as being related to three key areas – more demand for car-parking spaces than there is provision; inadequate signage; and narrow streets that aren’t conducive to modern traffic.

Among the possible solutions discussed were creating additional parking spaces, either by rationalisation or finding additional land; promoting the use of sustainable transport; residents’ parking permits; and a one-way system.

There seemed to be mixed views on residents’ permits, which would usually be allocated on a two-per-household basis, with one registered to a vehicle and the other being a visitor pass. It costs £15 per year to administer.

It is also unlikely that a residents’ scheme could be introduced village-wide and if introduced into individual streets, it may just push the problems into neighbouring streets, which also applies to double-yellow lines.

There seemed to be more consensus for creating a car park on the outskirts of the village centre and encouraging people to walk in from there – park and stride.

However, this would be both time-consuming and costly and it was pointed out that many people choose to come into the village centre instead of parking in the beach car park as it is.

This led to a pledge to provide new signage flagging up the beach car park, both at the junction with The Wynd and at the roundabout at the entrance to Northumberland Street, something which can be done far more quickly than other options.

As the discussion began to focus on more and more specific issues, Mrs Robinson said that she could undertake a traffic survey for the whole village, which would look to improve the situation as a whole, rather than piecemeal, and may involve suggestions such as a one-way system.

An experimental order could then be used to bring in the preferred option on a trial basis, for up to 12 months.

Alnmouth is far from being alone among the villages on the north Northumberland coast in terms of parking worries.

Back in May 2013, we reported that calls had been made to look at the parking situation on the north Northumberland coast after chaos reigned in several villages over a hot and sunny bank holiday weekend.

Representatives from Alnmouth, Bamburgh, Craster, Newton-by-the-Sea and Warkworth all admitted that they had problems with parking and traffic management to a greater or lesser extent, particularly at peak times.

Since then, free parking has been introduced in a number of towns and villages after the new Labour administration (elected that month in 2013) allowed town and parish councils to decide on their own parking regime.

Tellingly, parking charges were retained in Craster, Holy Island and Newton-by-the-Sea.

Off-street car parks in Bamburgh and Beadnell became free, while Warkworth and Alnmouth never had any paid-for car parks owned by the county council.