A parish-council meeting erupted into heated and angry exchanges as the new traffic measures in Alnmouth were discussed this week.
Tuesday’s night debate saw one of the county councillors for the area walk out and the other threaten to leave as some members of the parish council and the public lambasted the new system, which came into effect last week.
The meeting did settle down after the initial flare-up, but it was clear that the loss of parking spaces is one of the main bones of contention, with many at the meeting saying they felt the measures had been ‘imposed’ by the county council despite the consultation process.
Vice-chairman, Coun Nick Mattlock, who chaired the meeting, said: “In terms of an exercise in local government and democracy, the county council has delivered something the Mugabe government would be proud of.
“Lives are blighted and businesses will be ruined.”
But the county councillor Gordon Castle, who worked hard with fellow ward member Heather Cairns to get something done in the village following complaints by the parish council and residents, said that he had never seen a scheme like this that was so consulted upon, with a public meeting and exhibitions in the Hindmarsh Hall.
Coun Castle added that the overall decision was made by the county council as it is the highways authority, but that he hoped people would give the trial a fair chance and accept that there will be teething issues.
Coun Cairns left Tuesday’s meeting after just a few minutes due to the ‘hostile atmosphere’, but she and Coun Castle were present at the meeting of the parish council in October at which these proposals were discussed.
Some reservations and concerns were raised by the parish council, but it was felt that the scheme should be given a chance to see how it worked. No objection was raised, although Coun Mattlock, who was very critical on Tuesday, was absent from that meeting.
Referring to claims that the village has lost 90 parking spaces, he said: “That is the magnitude of what has happened to this village. In return, we have been given steel architecture (the new signage), which is out of keeping with our conservation village.”
Later, he apologised to Coun Castle, saying he didn’t mean to offend, ‘but my business is staring down the abyss’.
Other parish councillors felt that the one-way system could work, but they did not realise the scale of the loss of parking, believing that a one-way system would allow for bays on both sides of Northumberland Street.
A number of residents also shared their views at the meeting with one expressing major concerns about the safety of the corner from The Wynd onto Marine Road, which is now used by all vehicles, including school buses.
One woman said that new double-yellow lines outside her home had ‘devalued her house overnight’, adding that a vast majority of people at the initial public meeting were against a one-way system.
Another did not think that there had been a great deal of consultation, but felt that the scheme was imposed, adding that it being temporary was ‘laughable’ given that £100,000 had been spent.
One resident also raised the issue of the buses, due to the lack of a bus stop near the church/Post Office now and the fact that the stop further down near The Schooner does not have a shelter like it did on the other side of the road.
Another resident, who is partially-sighted, echoed the issue of the missing ‘central’ bus stop as well as highlighting the difficulties caused by all the extra signage and poles in the village.
After the meeting, Coun Cairns said: “The county council has set up a consultation method for people to respond to the one-way system and the parking restrictions in Alnmouth.
“Anyone wishing to comment is invited to do so and the information of how to comment to County Hall is available in the village.
“I left the meeting because the atmosphere was hostile.”