Parking in Berwick Needs a Rethink

An Open Letter to Northumberland County Council

I complain about the unacceptable parking situation for commuters to Berwick-upon-Tweed and present a few suggestions for improvement that might help.

I have an office at Berwick Workspaces, commuting in from a nearby village about 15-20 minutes away by car. In the last six months it has taken me almost as long again each day to find all-day parking. I cannot use short-stay car parks as I cannot interrupt my work to move my car.

Introduction

I usually drive across Pudding Lane around 11am and visit all the long-stay car parks inside the walls: Hatters Lane, Coxons Lane, Parade & Foul Ford. More often than not these are all busy, so I head for the Quayside: usually this too is busy. Thus most days I resort to parking "on the grass" in Castlegate Overspill Carpark. The reason for my reluctance is that—as you no doubt know—it more resembles a muddy bog than a car park this this time of year.

The situation was just about tolerable until building work started on the Greaves West & Ayre (GWA) offices on Walkergate. Until then I was regularly able to find parking in Coxons Lane when I arrived, but since that work started being able to find a slot there has become the exception rather than the rule. As work started it was initially filled with builders' lorries and vans, and later (presumably) by GWA staff.

Problems

I think there are several elements that need to be addressed:

Two (and three) hour parking is too short

Thus visitors or anyone driving in for lunch / cafe visit & an errand end up using all day parking instead. The two hour parking by the Maltings particularly rankles, as it is impossible to use for a matinee or day-time play.

People often don't park fully inside the parking bays

Thus take up more space than necessary. This is particularly the case in Foul Ford and Castlegate car parks.

Carks parked for weeks at a time in the long stay car parks

In particular I'm convinced Hatters Lane and Coxons Lane are used by local residents who should be using resident parking instead, but no doubt find it cheaper and more convenient than obtaining a resident parking permit.

Too much parking reserved for busses

The one-hour car park next to the library was made into a bus car park but seems to go unnused. At least I have never noticed any busses parked there.

Use of long-stay parking is more convenient than short-stay

You don't have to worry about obtaining or displaying the disk, nor about remembering to be back at a certain time. I have myself been guilty of (ab-)using long-stay car parks for this reason, and doubt I'm the only one.

Castlegate long stay and overspill car park is often a mudbath

I often end up parking here because I can't find suitable parking inside the walls. Yet, it's not the distance of walking I object to: it's having to wade through mud, and risk a fall on the slippery surface that is the problem.

Recommendations

I posit that we need a thorough overhaul of parking in Berwick. Here are some suggestions for your consideration:

Introduce commuter friendly parking in town

One way could be introduce a comumter disk, mimicing the existing short-stay parking disk but with days of the week on it rather than hours. It would be valid for a single day, but not multiple days in a row. There could either be a separate car park where these would be valid, or their users could park in the existing short-stay parking ones. (The latter would require the commuter disks to be rather more expensive than the existing disk to discourage misuse, or be something you have to apply for like the resident permits.) Ideally you should have to show that you work in town to qualify.

Another way to do this would be extending the existing Pay & Display scheme to a location inside the walls, suitable for commuting. However, this solution does not address the problem of cars parked for weeks at a time.

Introduce half-day parking

Some of the two and three hour parking could be made into four hour parking so that people would have enough time to go to the cafe, make an errand or two, and then leave. I have noticed that a lot of the all-day car parking frees up in the early afternoon, meaning it's taken by cars that could have used half-day parking instead. Thus allocating some of the short stay to slightly longer parking should stop these people hogging long-term parking unnecessarily.

Firm up the markings in the parking bays

Particularly in Castlegate and Foul Ford, and start fining cars that flout the markings. This would free up many spaces each day, as I often see two cars parked in space that would suffice for three.

Properly develop Castlegate Long Stay overspill car park

Make it suitable for parking in all weather and footwear.

This would be particularly effective in combination with improved access from Castlegate Long stay and overspill car parks to the town. This could take the form of a tunnel through the walls, or a set of stairs to the top of the walls from Castlegate long stay car park, providing access from Castlegate to Wallace Green, Coxons Lane, or Hatters Lane.

Incentivise people to use short-term parking when appropriate

This could perhaps be done by requiring a parking disk for long stay parking too, and perhaps by making this disk more expensive.

Make the bus car park by the Library back into a car park

It should be at least two hours, since many events you may want to attend to at the library last an hour.

Incentivise residents to use resident parking

This could be done by requiring a permit/disk for long-stay parking, and setting the price for this slightly higher than the fee to obtain a resident parking permit.

Introduce a park-and-ride scheme

Particularly for the tourist season, when the parking problem is particularly acute.

Conclusion

I don't think that any of the above recommendations will fix the parking problem on their own. Nor do I necessarily think adding more parking is the right solution. Rather, I believe a multi-pronged approach is required.

I realise that the existing parking disk is a County wide scheme, and the particular problem I describe is perhaps localised to Berwick. (I have no experience with other towns in the county, so cannot speak for them.) Thus introducing a disk, or additional charges, for long-stay parking could be a problem. However, it feels like introducing a commuter disk, and dedicated parking for carriers of such a disk, as a specific solution to a specific problem we have here that will have little impact to the rest of the county. Improving the quality of the surface and bay markings of existing parking sites should also give good result with no impact to the parking scheme anywhere else.

Contact

I refer you to my contact details should you wish to contact me about this open letter.

Date: 7 October 2017

Author: Stig Brautaset

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