Concerns raised over planned car park sale

The potential sale of a Holy Island car park has sparked a furious response from residents.

Friday, 10th March 2017, 7:09 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:54 am
Green Lane, Holy Island

Northumberland County Council has put part of the Green Lane site on the market and is inviting offers for the freehold.

However, the vicar of Holy Island, Rev Paul Collins, has expressed his ‘profound concern’ at the move.

“It seems has been done without any consultation,” he said. “It demonstrates a complete lack of democratic accountability or transparency and appears to be a cynical and reckless act. I hope very much the council will reconsider this move. The short term gain of money versus the long-term loss to the environment of the island is mind-boggling in its crassness.”

John Bevan, clerk to Holy Island Parish Council, has echoed those concerns and called for the sale to be suspended.

He believes the council must thoroughly consider the potential impact on tourism, with more than 500,000 visitors a year making their way across the tidal causeway.

However, the vast majority come in the summer and only when the tide is suitable. Therefore, Mr Bevan says the total number of visitors, coaches and Blue Badge car drivers averaged out over a year would give a false impression of the demand at peak times.

“With the large number of day visitors, parking is essential and the capacity must be determined by the peak demand,” he said.

“We do not share the optimism expressed by Northumberland County Council that the amended coach and blue badge area will be adequate to deal with this.

“Some pilgrimages come en masse with coach numbers in double figures on top of the regular tourist coach parties all coming and leaving at different times. The large car park at Chare Ends is already frequently full and would not be able to take any overspill from Green Lane.”

Suggestions that the site might be suitable for a hotel or café have also been met with concern given the seasonal nature of tourism, while there are fears that a housing development would lead to more holiday homes.

Mr Bevan said: “The residents of Holy Island feel that their needs, wishes and long term well-being are being sacrificed to achieve a short term financial gain for Northumberland County Council.

“None of which, like the bulk of the huge income from the Chare Ends Car Park, will be re-invested in the island or in supporting the requirements of our visitors.

“The sale should be withdrawn and discussions opened with the local community on how the best use can be made of this land.”

The council hopes to sell around half the existing car park and part of the grassed overflow area. If a buyer can be found, the council would retain the public toilets and improve the whole of the retained car parking area, maintaining provision for disabled and coach parking.

A council spokesman said: “The council is aware of the sensitivities of this site and any development would need to be sympathetically designed.”