SHOPKEEPERS in Berwick have bluntly warned that the town centre will die unless short-stay parking is reintroduced on Marygate.
The warning was issued by John Gardiner when he spoke on behalf of local traders at Northumberland County Council’s north area committee.
He said: “The Government is trying to encourage shoppers to use their high streets but there need to be greater incentives if people are going to use Marygate. At present it seems like the town centre is moving south of the river to the Tweedmouth Retail Park where there is ample free parking.
“The town centre has gone downhill fast since the part-pedestrianisation of Marygate in 2005 and we, as traders, want some positive assistance from the council before the town centre becomes semi-derelict.
“In our opinion the best option is to restore full parking on the high street as soon as possible.”
Ed Swales, a member of the Portas town team, said the return of herring bone parking on Marygate had to be considered and that the council must view Berwick as a special case.
He added: “It’s quite obvious that the people of Berwick think the parking situation is contributing to people not coming here to shop. Three-quarters of our rural hinterland uses Berwick as its hub and the vast majority of that is on the Scottish side of the border where there is free parking. Residents of Duns, Eyemouth and Reston are therefore presented with quite a big deterrent not to come into Berwick town centre.”
However, it is not an option supported by council highways officers who say a reversal of the £1.1m scheme carried out in 2005 would be of no benefit to the town centre or its businesses.
Mike Scott, head of sustainable transport, said: “The removal of the part-pedestrianisation would have an impact on the public realm and pedestrian experience as well as some potentially significant cost implications.
“My view is that Marygate, at the very heart of town, is the right place for disabled parking and taxi rank and clearly there is a need for loading and unloading.”
Committee members, however, felt that doing nothing was not an option. They have called for the formation of a working group comprising traders, councillors and other interest groups to assess all possible options.
The issue was being discussed following the submission of a 300-signature petition by local resident Grace Douglas.
She said: “I’m a busy housewife but I could pop out to buy sausages, go to the travel agent or florist if I could park on the high street. To find a car park further away from the shops just takes that bit more time.”