Concerns raised at coach park proposal

Plans to scrap Berwick's controversial coach park are being opposed by the trade body for UK bus and coach operators.

Friday, 29th September 2017, 07:54 am
Updated Thursday, 28th September 2017, 13:09 pm
Berwick coach park

Northumberland County Council is proposing, subject to planning approval, to change the Chapel Street facility back into a car park, just six months after its costly creation.

It plans to continue using the Church Street drop-off but then ask coach drivers to park at the Swan Centre for Leisure in Tweedmouth.

But Andrew McGuinness, Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) manager for the northern region, said: “CPT is concerned to learn of the proposals to move the current town centre coach park to an out-of-town site.

“This is especially disappointing given that the current facility has only been in operation for a very short time.

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“Switching to a location on the outskirts of town will not only add 30 minutes driving time to a coach operator’s schedule, it’s likely that any move could have a detrimental effect on the town’s economy.

“Coach tourism is widely recognised as offering significant environmental benefits – coaches are by far the greenest form of road passenger transport.

“Recent Visit England statistics have revealed that coach tourists regularly spend more money per head in towns and cities across the country than those arriving by car.

“CPT urges Berwick to continue discussing their plans with the coach industry before making any final decision.”

Berwick Chamber of Trade has also previously stated its objection to the proposal,although it acknowledges the shortcomings of the site and its lack of visitor facilities.

John Haswell, chairman, said: “The Chapel Street coach park has not been given a chance to work. It was only opened in March and there’s been no effort to promote it to coach drivers and tour operators.

“I certainly don’t think they have got best value out of it if you spend £500,000 and then six months later turn around and say you’ve had a change of heart.

“We need to find a way of welcoming coaches to the town.”

John Gardiner, a fellow member of the Chamber of Trade, added: “It’s not signposted properly. I’ve spoken to the drivers who park up outside Greaves West and Ayre on Walkergate and they don’t even know the coach park is there.”

The proposal to abandon the coach park follows a change in the administration at County Hall. The Conservative-led administration says the change would provide 25 free and much-needed car parking spaces in the town centre.