We in Amble are facing the very real danger of having a place of beauty and freedom destroyed by the very business community keen to attract more visitors to the town.
The Braid, once part of Amble’s industrial past, is now its Village Green.
With its varied wildlife, proximity to both sea and river, it is popular with residents and visitors as a haven of sanity and safety enabling walkers to stroll, children to play, cyclists to cycle and dogs to be let off their leads without fear from traffic.
Yet, even though the Braid boasts its own well-maintained and signposted car park, easily accessed from Rotary Way and within a short, enjoyable walk to the main shopping area in Queen Street and the Harbour, it appears that the Amble Business Club, together with Northumberland County Council, Amble Town Council and Amble Development Trust, has deemed the Braid itself as necessary overflow to town centre car parking.
As a result, overflow car parking on the Braid, which started a full week before the August Bank Holiday weekend, is being trialled until Sunday, after which the findings will be reviewed.
No one who I have talked to is against progress and many of us welcome the positive changes taking place in Amble but it appears that the way this trial is being conducted is biased in favour of effectively turning the Braid into a main car park.
Certainly, the consensus is that there is a need to use a part of the Braid as overflow parking on festival days and bank holidays but the fact that the Braid’s own car park appears to be excluded from the trial and, perhaps, is not even considered as being part of the town’s car-parking facilities, means that the findings of the trial will be inaccurate and therefore, decisions made on inaccurate data will only lead to more problems.
For example, last weekend (not a festival nor bank holiday), on both Saturday and Sunday, the business club strategically erected Puffin signs on the roads leading into Amble directing motorists to park for free on the Braid – the Braid’s car park is free anyway.
And, even though there were available car-parking spaces in the Braid’s own car park, the council traffic warden continued to direct cars on to the Braid itself.
She then created a one-way system on the Braid by directing cars to park along the marina fence (part of the traffic-free National UK Cycleway) and to exit by turning, driving past the houses overlooking the Braid, near the pedestrian footbridge, and driving along the pedestrian track, effectively taking up as much as possible of the Braid used by cyclists and walkers.
When she was asked why she was doing this rather than first making sure the existing Braid and town centre car parks were full, her reply was that she was ‘only doing what she had been instructed to do’.
This summer, it has been a delight to welcome the increase in the number of visitors walking on the Braid and the number of cyclists from around the UK and Europe using the cycleway as well as the number of residents, especially young mothers with toddlers.
Without exception, all of the visitors have praised the location and, in fact, the only downside seems to be with the confusion created by the lack of signs indicating the cycleway.
It is obvious that, with its exciting new developments and future plans, Amble is definitely a town on the up and, while business is an important part of a thriving community, it should not be at the cost to that community of taking over a ‘green and pleasant land’ and turning it into a car park simply to maintain their profit margins.
Instead, perhaps a more positive step would be for the business community to consider investing money into developing several of the under-used sites around Amble to create more parking spaces.
After all, it would appear that valuable parking in Queen Street is actually being taken up by employees of the very businesses keen to turn the Braid into a car park.
St Marks Court,