Campaign group continues criticism of coach-park plans
Critics continue to point out what they see as shortcomings in the proposals for a new coach park in Berwick after one used the wrong route and became stuck.
The Berwick Campaign for a Real Coach Park have said that the first touring coach to try the ‘coach circulation route’ since the new signs were put in by Northumberland County Council (NCC) sailed straight past them.
Jammed in Church Street, it made four attempts to exit into Marygate before reversing all the way back up.
Rose Osborne, from the campaign group, said: “It doesn’t matter how many expensive signs NCC put up, coach drivers just do not see the route as workable. More and more of our money is just being wasted on this venture.”
Critics claim that NCC has backtracked on claims that coaches use the route all the time and have admitted that the turn from Church Street to Chapel Street has to be negotiated with care.
However, a county council spokesman said: “Engineers have incorporated the space required for the turning circle of modern tourist coaches in the design of the new facility at Chapel Street and access to it from the surrounding streets and the route for coaches using Church Street and Chapel Street is more than adequate.
“There have been some cases of coach drivers using the wrong route, perhaps based on satnav systems, and trying to enter Marygate from Church Street, which is not a suitable manoeuvre for coaches. Signs have been installed to guide coaches to turn into Chapel Street from Church Street and it is expected that coaches will follow this route. This issue will continue to be monitored going forward as the coach park comes into use.”
He added that the aim of the new facility is to promote coach tourism in Berwick.
But the Berwick Campaign for a Real Coach Park also claims that the council has admitted that it does not expect the Chapel Street coach park to attract more coaches to Berwick.
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Campaigners are asking why money continues to be thrown at the project when it is clear that it will not give Berwick what it needs – a proper coach park, of decent size and with the facilities to attract tourists and boost jobs and trade.
One campaigner said: “NCC has consistently failed to put its back into this issue. Castlegate is one obvious option, which has all that the coaches need.”
They also point out that the Chapel Street coach park will remove much-needed parking spaces.
Responding, a county council spokesman said: “There has been a general consensus among traders and local businesses that a lack of coach parking infrastructure is a barrier to coach tourism in the town and the potential economic benefits this could bring.
“The decision to proceed with the facility at Chapel Street was taken after careful consideration of other options including providing coach parking at Castlegate car park. Various parking options were considered for Castlegate, but ultimately it was found this would lead to a significant loss of town centre car parking spaces and create a serious safety risk between coach, car and pedestrian movements within the car park.
“The Chapel Street proposal will lead to the loss of 22 car-parking spaces, but this is considerably less than the number of spaces that would have been lost for a similar number of coach spaces in the Castlegate car park.
“We are aware of general pressures on parking in Berwick, including the time-limited permission for the overflow car park at the east end of the Castlegate car park, and are working to try to secure additional car parking at Berwick Railway Station. We will also be conducting a wider study of parking needs and options in the town.
“With regard to traffic volumes, we do expect the coach park to be well used for the four spaces provided, but given likely lengths of time that coaches will stay, we do not anticipate this will have a significant increase on overall traffic levels in the area.”