Listen to our businesses

Last week I did a small survey of businesses on their preference of where they would like a coach park in Berwick.

Friday, 23rd February 2018, 8:00 am

The choice was the Chapel Street coach park or Walkergate on-street parking, which is being proposed. The vast majority signed for Chapel Street.

After asking 55 businesses around Berwick, everybody wanted a coach park as tourism is a vital bloodline for the town’s survival.

The survey result was 42 signed for Chapel Street, six for Walkergate, three for either, and four did not sign for they thought that none of choices was suitable – point taken.

Proprietors, owners and managers can’t understand why we have used £500,000 of taxpayers’ money to develop a coach park that the Berwick people wanted, just to change it back into a car park in less than a year.

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It’s not the ideal venue, but it’s what we have got and it has never had a chance to flourish. The reasons for this are very poor signage and tour operators being ill-advised or not told at all.

When going around for signatures, the town centre looked uninviting due to the amount of empty premises, and shops and cafes were shut or closing early because of the lack of custom. The town centre seems to be dying. We need tourism badly to revive the situation.

The quicker we resolve the coach/car parking, the better, for the winters are long and hard and we need tourists at all times of the year, and especially in the summer months.

It is known that Berwick needs more car parking spaces, but the all-day parking is 60 per cent of the problem, tying up six car parks all day long. We have to put time restrictions on three of them at least so visitors and other members of the community can have a chance to get parked. This, I believe, should be looked into.

There are some suitable brownfield sites around the town and I believe Northumberland County Council should be trying harder to resolve the problem.

Talking and listening to the signatories, they all had reasonably good ideas of their own on coach and car parking and some made good sense. Some have already been looked into by the county council and Berwick Town Council, and the most logical one was The Parade.

Would it not be possible to use half The Parade car park for coach parking and half for short-stay car parking, then use the coach park in Chapel Street for short-stay car parking? This would help the shortfall of The Parade car park. Other towns share parking areas.

The Walkergate on-street parking would create traffic chaos as articulated lorries drive to loading bays at the rear of Home Bargains, large vehicles deliver rolls of broadloom carpets to Youngman’s, you have delivery vans to and froing, and not forgetting that public bus services use this route also.

There is a taxi rank, plus three junctions, on this route, and also the road would be narrower with large coaches being parked up.

Out of the 55 businesses, none had been consulted about this, it was all hearsay or known through the media.

Greaves West & Ayre thought that as the county council is proposing on-street parking outside its premises it would have been helpful to notify the business on the subject.

Personally, I think Chapel Street should be given another chance, as do the majority of the businesses. Surely, their voices should be heard.

Get better, clearer signage erected and advise tour operators. Andrew McGuinness, of the Confederation of Passengers Transport UK, and Berwick Chamber of Trade are all willing to help once we have a resolution.

Alex Gibson