Long-awaited plans for a coach park facility in Berwick town centre have been approved despite objections from local residents.
The Chapel Street scheme was unanimously given the go ahead by Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee on Tuesday night.
Vivienne Robinson, principal planning officer, said: “The provision of a much-needed coach park within the town will help to support the retail and tourist economy and encourage more visitors arriving by coach.”
Four coach parking spaces will be created on the site of the existing car park, with the neighbouring former Swans bus yard to be used for turning space.
Planners felt the ‘upgrade’ of an existing car park was preferable to other more sensitive sites within the conservation area such as The Parade and Castlegate, whilst calls for it to go on the former Kwik Save site on Walkegate have fallen on deaf ears with a proposed redevelopment for offices in the pipeline.
Eight letters of objection had been submitted from local residents complaining about the impact it will have on them. They raised concerns about the lack of toilet facilities, highways safety and the potential health hazard of diesel fumes.
But Ms Robinson said: “It is not considered the proposal would result in a significantly detrimental impact upon the amenities of the neighbouring properties or highways safety.”
She added that toilet facilities, visitor information and retail facilities were available within walking distance.
In addition, no concerns were raised by conservation officer, Annette Reeves, who said there were no justifiable arguments against the proposal. It was an ‘incidental’ area very weak in townscape terms.
There have long been calls for better coach parking facilities in Berwick, with the popularity of Seahouses and Alnwick showing that there could be high demand.
At the moment there is a drop-off on Walkergate but many coach drivers instead stop on the outskirts of the town or bypass it altogether.
“The need for coach parking within Berwick has been a long-standing issue,” admitted Ms Robinson.
She explained that the Tweed and Silk public realm strategy stated that ‘coach visitots are a potential rich source of tourist income currently under-exploited in Berwick. The tourist information office finds that coach drivers frequently complain that they cannot park adequately. Drivers need a drop-off location close to good facilities, consequently many avoid Berwick at present. This problem is clearly a high priority which needs to be solved’.
Councillors felt the loss of car parking spaces, including the existing on-street bays, was acceptable. They also heard that adjacent footpaths will be altered to provide more space for pedestrians.