Berwick coach park to revert to car park

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Northumberland County Council said it was looking to provide on-street short stay coach parking for up to three coaches at Walkergate. GOOGLE STREETVIEW

£500,000 coach park axed less than a year after it was opened, but county council tells CBW free parking and pick-up and drop-off facilities are available in Scottish border market town

Berwick-upon-Tweed has lost its coach park which opened less than 12 months ago after members of Northumberland County Council (NCC) voted to return it to a car park, despite objections from the local community.

Four coach bays installed at a cost of £500,000 opened in April 2017 on Chapel Street will now be replaced by 15 short stay car parking spaces, two of which will provide charging facilities for electric vehicles. The decision was unanimously approved by the authority’s North Northumberland Local Area Council.

The hearing heard 10 letters of support in favour of car parking had been received – and that the move had been backed by the town’s three county councillors and a petition of 189 names, while the previous creation of the coach park, less than a year ago, had proved controversial.

However, Berwick Chamber of Trade stressed the removal of the Chapel Street coach parking would be detrimental to attempts to market coach tourism. Furthermore, the body said insufficient information was available regarding the proposed Swan Centre and Walkergate alternatives.

In its submission, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) argued that the facility had not been open long enough to have become fully utilised and that proposed alternative at the Swan Centre would make short stay visits to Berwick less viable.

A member of public carried out a survey of 55 businesses which highlighted a coach park in the town centre is necessary and the majority believe Chapel Street facility should be retained. Whilst more car parking is needed, other options should be explored.

Reacting to the decision, CPT told CBW: “We were disappointed to learn of the council’s plans to return the coach park to a car park. We remain in discussion with the local authority and we are hopeful that suitable alternative set-down, pick-up and parking facilities are provided nearby. We maintain close contact with the Chamber of Trade, which recognises the essential role coaches and their passengers play in bringing people to Berwick and the surrounding local economy. It’s fair to say this relies heavily on tourism, including visiting coaches.”

Asked by CBW when the coach park is due to close, a Northumberland Council spokesperson replied: “The North Area Planning Committee considered the proposal to convert the Chapel Street coach park to a car park on February 22. The committee supported the application and the administrative process of confirming the planning approval and conditions is currently in process. Until this has been completed, we are not in a position to be definitive about when the coach parking facility in Chapel Street will close, but we would expect this will be sometime after the Easter holidays.”

As for where coaches should drop-off and pick-up post closure, the NCC spokesperson responded: “A drop-off facility still exists and will continue to be available at Church Street in Berwick, which is very near to Chapel Street. In addition, the council has also provided a coach parking facility at the Swan Centre leisure centre which can be used for long-term coach parking. “The council is also in the process of providing on-street short stay coach parking for up to three coaches with a maximum two-hour stay at Walkergate, which is also adjacent to Chapel Street. All of this coach parking is free.”