Premier Inn plan angers traders - but the longer-term benefits are pointed out
Construction plans for the new Premier Inn in Berwick have led to a raft of objections due to their impact on the Bridge Street car park and Drivers Lane.
More than 30 letters of concern about Premier Inn’s construction management plan have been submitted to Northumberland County Council.
Whitbread, the parent company of Premier Inn, is seeking to discharge conditions attached to the planning permission for its 60-bedroom hotel on the site of the former Playhouse cinema on Sandgate.
However, businesses and residents have warned of congestion chaos and danger to pedestrians and motorists if the plan for a 30-week closure of Drivers Lane and two-way access to the Bridge Street car park is approved.
Liz Murray, on behalf of the Bridge Street Traders Association (BSTA), said: “The proposal to reconfigure the carpark and put an entrance/exit onto Bridge Street is based on the error that Bridge Street is one-way.
“It is not. It is a busy, narrow, two-way street with high buildings close to the road and narrow pavements. A T-junction here would be blind into difficult traffic conditions, endangering pedestrians and road users alike.
“West Street is due to reopen in March 2017 which will increase traffic from the Bridge End as people access the lower end of town avoiding Marygate.
“This error persists from the original planning application, but nothing has been done to correct it despite repeated requests from the BSTA.
“The closure of Drivers Lane has a far-reaching impact on the traffic flow of the town; the safety of road users and pedestrians; the viability of businesses on Bridge Street and the provision of services, including emergency services to residents in the vicinity. This impact is disproportionate to the site and size of the build.”
Sion Gates, manager of the nearby Dewar’s Lane Youth Hostel, added: “The current plan is unsafe and will lead to a dangerous scenario whereby large service vehicles will be forced to turn into oncoming traffic on Bridge street.”
Cllr Eric Goodyer points out the car park belongs to the BSTA and has a covenant on the land stating that it must be used solely for the benefit of the street traders.
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He calls on the council to enter into meaningful negotiations with Whitbread and the BSTA to present a new plan that only uses Drivers Lane.
The plan has one letter of support from Tweedmouth resident J Cameron, who said: ‘The proposal appears to be detailed and provides a sensible, practical approach to deal with the constraints of this site. I cannot see any other way in which a building of any size or description could be constructed without some initial short term disruption.
‘We should do all we can to allow this project to proceed. Berwick is in desperate need of investment and revitalisation. This project will bring much needed, stable employment.’
Planning consultant Emma Whitney, in a report with the application, said: ‘The development site is very constrained and Drivers Lane and the car park are very important to the local traders. Due to the difficulties in developing this site, the construction management plan that has been produced is a work in progress.’
A number of people have called on the objectors to see the bigger picture that investment in the town will bring.
Julie Christie, commenting on facebook, said: “ Sometime you just have to put up with the disruption and think of the good that will come from it, Berwick you’re getting a new restaurant and hotel which is bringing much needed employment to the town, I’m sure when it’s all finished everyone will be happy it,and not the horrible eyesore it is at the present moment.”
Zoe Mills added: “Think of what it could bring to the town. What’s the alternative? Just leave empty buildings there doing nothing until the end of time?! 30 weeks is nothing compared to the amount of time West Street has been closed. We need Berwick to progress.”
Duncan Macrae said: “Just get the place built and stop moaning - a national Hotel chain opening a hotel right in the town centre , how many punters does that guarantee for our pubs/cafes/shops each day? I stay in Premier Inns regularly and always go out into the town for a wander and pint/scran , this is good news for Berwick so get on with it!”
David Morton Mugen added: “Got to look at the big picture and just bite the bullet. What’s the alternative?”