Vehicle ban is impractical
The proposals for the Old Bridge in Berwick to be pedestrianised sometime in the future due to the reported deteriorating condition of the stonework are something the people who live and work in the town and area should be very concerned about.
It is, indeed, very important to maintain this ancient bridge to a safe and usable standard, and for the economic welfare of Berwick-upon-Tweed the bridge needs to maintain its status as an alternative traffic thoroughfare across the River Tweed.
Tony Houghton, at his talk to the Civic Society’s Question Time session in February, made the statement that whilst renovation work was carried out it would be possible to see “if its use was greatly missed” and “suspected probably not much”.
The word “suspect” is indeed a speculative one, clearly not based on any statistical analysis. Has he done any surveys to back up his views?
The four traffic survey counts we did recently show that the bridge is highly used, and the figures could well be much greater in the summer months with visitors.
After we counted the vehicle, foot and bicycle passage, the following counts were recorded for a 30-minute period each day:–
Thursday, March 10 (am), 132 motor vehicles, 54 pedestrians, one bicycle; Saturday, March 12 (am), 149 motor vehicles, 58 pedestrians, one bicycle; Monday, March 14 (pm), 110 motor vehicles, 50 pedestrians, two bicycles; Friday, March 18 (pm), 158 motor vehicles, 67 pedestrians, one bicycle.
It could well be that businesses and other agencies would suffer badly if traffic is banned from the bridge.
It is to be hoped that residents and business owners on or near Bridge Street and surrounding streets will be consulted. Is there to be a plan to do this in the future?
How will traffic turn around, deliver goods and access car parking areas (bearing in mind the future development of the Premier Inn site)?
The plan to pedestrianise the old bridge could well double many of the traffic problems existing in Berwick and not reduce them, especially during the peak holiday seasons.
Traffic safety issues are already a major concern in the town. All the traffic that would use the old bridge would have to turn around and return back through the difficult and narrow corner junction between Hide Hill and Marygate, by the Town Hall, resulting in added danger and chaos for both vehicles and pedestrians.
The other question is emergency services – surely the closure of the bridge would negate that as an option for medical and police response units.
Whilst the vehicle ban may look good on paper as a town planner’s drawing, the practical, day to day way of life has been left off such a design.
The lower part of town has several, much needed, redevelopments in progress, which will hopefully attract future residents and visitors. Restricting traffic and banning it from crossing the old bridge will surely have a negative effect.
Strengthen and repair the bridge by obtaining money from all possible sources, and retain an important route for traffic through the town and over the River Tweed.
And before seriously considering closing the bridge to traffic, please consult first with people who regularly use the bridge and businesses who rely year-round on passing trade for their economic viability.
Phil and Margery Noble