Parking needs to be sorted

It's the summer tourist season, and what are Berwick's worthies debating?

Monday, 4th September 2017, 09:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 10:25 am

Not how to welcome visitors, but rather, if they come by coach, how to keep them out.

I’m not certain whether the newly-created coach park is the best designed facility on the planet, but any weaknesses in that respect have been a good stick with which a vocal minority could beat the previous County Council administration – which, at least, actually did something more than talk about the issue.

Any design flaws have also been used to support the claim that coaches should not be allowed anywhere near the centre of town.

Opponents, who claim detriment from the coach park’s present situation, conveniently forget the area’s previous incarnation as a yard for Swan’s buses – notable for their vintage and exhaust reek, if nothing else.

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Those who claim the Church Street–Chapel Street junction is unsuitable for coaches conveniently ignore the fact that Border Buses use it all day and every day.

So, if coaches are not to access the central area, where are they to go?

Conveniently ignoring trials conducted some while ago, using smaller vehicles than those in common use today, which found the Castlegate Car Park unsuitable for coach parking, voices are once again raised to resurrect this proposition.

How many car parking spaces would be sacrificed to provide a manoeuvring and parking area for one coach? Nine or more?

How feasible is it for a coach exiting the Castlegate to turn left under the Scots Gate or turn in from the south?

The approach from the north is not that clever either, bearing in mind that coaches can be up to 15 metres long, and require a minimum lane width of 3.5 metres.

I haven’t measured the width of the entrance to the Castlegate Car Park, but I suspect it would require considerable remodelling to accommodate coaches.

A notion of having a transport interchange at the railway station is admirable in its own right, but has only been thrown into the mix as a solution to the coach parking issue.

Until a few years ago, there were actually coach bays at the station.

With present car parking space now barely adequate, what alternative provision would have to be made for vehicles displaced by the insertion of extra bus stops and coach parking?

Last week’s Advertiser reported that the Town Council now wants visiting coaches to drop their passengers off in Church Street, before negotiating the allegedly ‘unsuitable’ Chapel Street junction and then driving over to the Swan Centre to park.

What facilities are actually available there for visiting drivers and where, for that matter, would leisure centre users park?

Given that this fruitless process would add at least half an hour to any visit to Berwick, it is hardly an attractive proposition for coach operators, a point apparently recognised by at least some sane voices in the Council Chamber.

Not far beneath the surface is the notion that coaches should not be allowed inside the walls at all.

Would that ban also apply to local service buses and delivery vehicles as well?

Why not go the whole hog and extend the principle to all vehicles thus making the town centre totally car free?

If the barracks are ever developed as a Heritage Hub, how would groups access it?

Which is the more environmentally friendly option – one coach bringing 50 visitors into town or 50 individual vehicle movements to achieve the same result?

Instead of constant debate it might be a good idea if the Town Council took a long hard look at the town centre.

What does it offer the average visitor?

What is special or distinctive about its retail offer?

Why should a coach party want to stop here?

At present, with all the negative vibes about the place, any self-respecting coach driver would be best advised to stay on the A1, and, if his passengers need a break, advance no further than the East Ord Garden Centre, since it is clear that some in Berwick just do not want coaches anywhere near them at any price.

Colin Wakeling,