A serious opportunity
We, the people, are being consulted 'to identify the issues and concerns that the (soon-to-be created) Neighbourhood Plan needs to address'.
We can, we are told, “contribute to planning policies that will help shape the future that (we) want to see”. Whoopee.
But hang on – I arrived in Berwick from Edinburgh 39 years ago and this ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ is by no means the first time that its type has been wheeled out before the public, a public whose input into such public relations exercises has, throughout those 39 years, deserved a darn sight better reception than it has ever received.
Berwick is a hugely historic town, steeped in the histories not of one, but of two great nations.
Within its environs it has the A1 Great North Road that directly connects the capital cities of London and Edinburgh, it has miles of sandy beaches, the mouth of one of Britain’s greatest rivers, a working commercial harbour, and, when I came here, a couple of small boat building yards.
It has wonderful scenery on three sides and the North Sea on the fourth. It has an main line railway station. And I venture to suggest that the view over the Tweed from Dock Road, Tweedmouth, is one of the finest views that any tourist in the UK can find.
However, over the years things have been imposed upon Berwick, and Tweedmouth and Spittal, regardless of the wishes of the people.
For instance, the narrowing of the roadway on the Royal Tweed Bridge (‘New’ bridge), which took away much-needed car parking and coach parking facilities, and which now, with the unnecessary widening of the Golden Square pavements and the insertion of umpteen bewildering bollards on the edges of the narrowed roadway, has the potential, should there be a vehicle accident on the bridge, to prevent emergency vehicles from entering the town.
There is the neglect of the stonework of the uniquely historic Old Bridge, with the likelihood that to repair it, the bridge will have to close, perhaps never to re-open again to vehicular traffic, thereby causing considerable traffic jams each morning and evening whilst vehicles struggle to find other means of getting into and out of the town.
And there was the demolition of Marygate’s much used bus depot and toilet facilities in favour of a cluster of not needed small shops; the decreasing of the historic width of Berwick’s ancient High Street in favour of a ludicrous-looking mismatch of pavement versus public highway; the creation of a not-needed, publicly-funded theatre which led to the closure of a much better (theatrically) equipped privately-owned theatre and to consume millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
More recently, and very much against the wishes of the people, there is the demolition of a, by comparison with most buildings in Berwick, not very old town centre former supermarket building in Walkergate in favour of a speculative undertaking.
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Despite what the county council seems to want us to believe, Berwick and its environs are not part of the heritage of Morpeth, nor part of the heritage of Ashington. They are the heritage of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal, a heritage uniquely rich not only in English history, but also in Scottish history.
Of these three communities, Berwick is the historic ‘old town’; Tweedmouth is the industrial area and also the principal out-of-town shopping area; and Spittal is the seaside area. And, unless the law states otherwise, Northumberland County Council must not be permitted, directly or via its sidekick Arch, to take from the people of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal control of their own destinies.
So, in my humble opinion, I suggest that this ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ be used to plan seriously, very seriously the futures of each of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal.
Some of the things that I would like to see are for Marygate’s layout to revert to what it was before the current layout was put in place, and for Arch to have a serious re-think about the unwanted disturbance that it is forcing upon Walkergate, and if it cannot get itself into the mindsets of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal to remove itself back from whence it came.
Also, for the very sad situation of Jus-Rol being used as a launch platform to recreate within the UK an ethos of being manufactures to the world so that we once again create wealth for the benefit of the UK and its citizens and thus stop HM Treasury from having to raise money by squeezing the UK citizens.
And as for the parking of tourist buses? How about Dock Road and its magnificent views over the Tweed? Easy access and parking, with room enough for at least 10 of the largest of tour coaches, with a shuttle bus service running to and from various nearby destinations, a purpose-built toilet block directly connected to Dock Road’s existing sewerage and water supply services, a host of small shops and businesses nearby, and also nearby Berwick’s ‘Old Bridge’ – the UK’s most historic bridge, built on the order of James VI of Scotland and I of England and Ireland, that connects Tweedmouth to that area of Berwick that was once its hub, Bridge Street.