Trader’s anger as car park is shut for Vera

Andy Grant outside Pipers Pitch Catering in Craster.
Andy Grant outside Pipers Pitch Catering in Craster.

An angry trader has criticised the decision to close a village car park for six days as part of filming for major ITV drama Vera – claiming it had a ‘devastating impact’ on his business.

Andy Grant, of Pipers Pitch Catering, has expressed his dismay after Craster’s Quarry Car Park was shut from last Wednesday until Monday of this week, to allow cast and crew to capture scenes for the seventh series of the show.

The 45-year-old’s catering van is located beside the facility and he says he ended up losing around £2,000 of trade.

Mr Grant, from South Charlton, claims that he was not notified by either ITV or Northumberland County Council about the decision to shut the site.

The crew filmed in Craster for three days, but also shot at Rumbling Kern, near Howick, on the Wednesday and Seahouses and the Farne Islands on the Saturday.

A critical Mr Grant says the production company only used the car park at Craster for three of the six days, claiming that the site was left essentially empty, but shut off, while they were filming in the other locations during their north-Northumberland stint.

In a desperate measure to try to force some action, he disrupted filming in Craster last Friday, by playing his bagpipes while scenes were being shot at the harbour.

He said that on the Saturday afternoon – three-and-a-half days into the car-park closure – a traffic-enforcement officer offered him the chance to move to a nearby field, but it was ‘too little, too late’ and was not viable. He added that he was offered a maximum of four days’ compensation from the location manager as a ‘good-will gesture’, but this was ‘the bare minimum which doesn’t touch the sides’. ITV did not wish to comment.

The county council has said that it received late notice from the production crew about wanting to use the site.

The authority adds that after it became aware that Mr Grant had been affected, an offer was made to move him elsewhere, but this arrangement ‘wasn’t suitable for him’.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Grant said: “This has had a devastating impact on me financially – it was a killer. It took six days of trade away from me – I reckon I lost out on about £2,000. I am disappointed that ITV and the county council did not notify me. I was offered compensation, but what they offered me was a silly amount – it was peanuts for the inconvenience caused.”

He added: “On the Saturday afternoon, after the car park had already been closed for a number of days, a traffic-enforcement officer said that I could move to another field, but this was too little too late and I can’t take my catering van into a field in case it gets bogged down. It was not a viable alternative.”

Mr Grant said that customer numbers were well down while the car park was closed and he packed up early over the weekend. He added that the re-opening of the car park on Tuesday made an ‘instant difference’, with business going ‘back to normal’.

Reflecting on his experience, he said: “I turned up to work on Wednesday morning and the closed signs were up at the car park. The whole of the first day, there was no film crew and the car park was empty all day long.

“On Thursday morning, I came in and the place was filled with the film crew, TV sets and rigging. I asked if I could speak to somebody about the issue, but the whole of Thursday passed and there was no sign of the location manager. On Friday morning, I told the security guard that I was going to interrupt filming if I couldn’t speak to somebody – after all, they had been detrimental to my business, so I was going to be detrimental to theirs.

“I waited and there was no sign of anyone, so I packed my pipes up and started playing them down at the harbour.

“That ruffled the feathers and I only got to play for about two minutes before I was stopped, but I wanted to let them know that I meant business.

“The location manager came to speak to me and offered a pathetic amount of compensation. It is sad that I had to resort to playing my pipes for somebody to speak to me.

“On Saturday, they took everything up to Seahouses, leaving the car park with nothing in it, and it was the same on Sunday. There was some rigging left, but the car park could have been open. And then there was Monday. It has not been a good experience.”

Craster Parish Council vice-chairman John Gallon said the group was informed by the county council about a proposal to close the car park on the Monday afternoon – little more than a day before the closure. The issue is set to be on the agenda at its meeting tonight. But he said he couldn’t comment on it because ‘we are still working through the implications’.

Other businesses in the village have said they did not feel the impact of the closure.

A county-council spokeswoman said: “The Vera production team came to us at short notice with a request to use the car park for some filming that they wished to do in the area.

“We are a film-friendly county and try to accommodate such requests wherever we can, due to the economic benefits to Northumberland.

“When we became aware that the operator had been affected we did offer the opportunity to trade from the temporary car park on a nearby field, but this wasn’t suitable for him.”