Views split over pedestrianisation trial in Alnwick's Narrowgate as traders outline further concerns
The pedestrianisation trial on Narrowgate in Alnwick has continued to divide opinion.
There was more heated discussion of the issue at a meeting of Alnwick Town Council.
The previous evening, members of Alnwick Chamber of Trade had voiced serious concerns that it had resulted in a drop in trade and footfall.
However, several businesses on the pedestrianised part of Narrowgate have also praised the positives of a more pleasant shopping environment.
Andrew Hodgson, managing director of Sportsworld on Market Street, told councillors: “The Narrowgate pedestrianisation is a massive concern for some of the traders.
“The big multiples are really suffering from this. We could start losing big shops wholesale, not just little cafes which might be benefiting at the moment.
“We haven’t got the draw of a big town centre department store but if you start losing your multiples the town centre is finished and it will be a ghost town.”
He added: “I’m at the other end of town but the traffic issues there are a massive problem. If you start taking away the streets like we have done over the last 10-15 years, like St Michael’s Lane, Paike’s Lane and Pottergate Tower, all the little rat runs have gone and then when you shut off Narrowgate you end up with traffic congestion.”
Jane Atkin, owner of the Beauty Box on Bondgate Within, said: “The traffic has been the worst thing and there are accidents waiting to happen.
“There seems to be an opinion among local businesses that it’s all been very positive but here we’ve lost the through trade. We are meant to be on a thoroughfare but now we’re at a dead end.
“We’re really feeling the effects of closing this road. It’s changed something that didn’t need to be changed and the shops are suffering.
“I know one or two say they’ve done brilliantly, especially cafes, but it’s been a busy summer for tourism and they were bound to go and sit outside them.
“Our shop has been there 45 years, I’ve been there 32, and there’s been a huge change this summer in the way people have been shopping. There is nowhere for people to park.
“What I fear the most about Bondgate Within now is that the small shops like us are going to suffer because the big shops will pull out. Once they shut there is nothing to bring people into the town.
“I am all for Marks & Spencer and I think it’s wonderful that it’s coming to Alnwick but we need to keep people coming into the town centre. The restaurants and cafes aren’t going to keep the town busy in January and February.”
Coun Gordon Castle, member for Alnwick on Northumberland County Council, pointed out that the pedestrianisation project is a 12-month trial.
He said: “I was personally very disappointed at the way the Narrowgate scheme was initially put together, bearing in mind it did have to be lifted for the Tour of Britain cycle race so you couldn’t do too much. I thought there were far too many signs but, looking at it now, it looks pretty smart.
“No-one doubts that trading conditions on high streets everywhere are tough. Relatively speaking, Alnwick does pretty well because it doesn’t have many empty shops.
“What is a fact is that every single business in the area subject to pedestrianisation – and they are not all cafes – have reported an increase in trade. In other words, their businesses are better off as a result. It must be linked to the pedestrianisation. If that side of the street is doing better, how can others be doing worse?”
Mayor Lynda Wearn said the feedback would be taken on board and passed on to Northumberland County Council. She also said it would be helpful for officers if businesses could present evidence of trading conditions rather than anecdotes.
The county council has already agreed to carry out a survey of Alnwick businesses to get their views