Anger over 24-hour access plan for car park

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Plans to allow 24-hour access to a supermarket car park have been blasted by residents, who say their lives have been made a misery by anti-social behaviour.

Morrisons is seeking permission for staff to use the underground car park off Dark Lane around the clock.

But the move has angered residents in Staithes Lane, who say the facility is already a magnet for boy-racers and skateboarders and police have been called out numerous times to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Officers say reports of crimes are relatively low, but they are working to tackle the problems.

Resident Marcus Hopper said: “We were given assurances in the development process that the car park would be closed at night because of the fear of anti-social behaviour and the noise of vehicles going in and out.

“It is supposed to be closed between 10pm and 8am, but Morrisons is now trying to get these restrictions removed for staff.

“With Morrisons leaving the emergency gates open, Joe Public could jump on the bandwagon and access the car park at all hours. It is not just Morrisons’ staff who can use it.

“There has been lots of anti-social behaviour and police have been called out a number of times. There are people flying about in cars and skateboarders running about, it is an ideal place for them.

“The police do come down quite often and they do turn up when requested, but kids are kids and they are back again within half an hour.”

Mr Hopper said the current restrictions are not being strictly enforced and there are also problems from general noise and lights.

“Even though it’s supposed to, the car park doesn’t close at 10 o’clock and the emergency access gate for staff to use is open from 5am,” he said.

“We hear car doors slamming and because it is an underground car park the noise reverberates and comes straight through our bedroom windows.

“We also have problems with car lights because they shine straight through our windows, and there are problems from lighting in the car park.”

He added: “We worry that this application is the thin end of the wedge because there are also restrictions on when deliveries can be made and we think that is going to be the next battle.”

In a formal objection, fellow resident Greg Jobling said: “I frequently hear cars with ‘sports exhausts’ and moronic owners drive into the underground car park, sit and rev their engines, and drive at high speeds up and down the car park.

“Because it is an underground car park the noise is amplified dramatically and this is a great nuisance.

“I am fully opposed to this change in hours as it will only be a matter of time before we have cars in there at 2am or 3am, normally at a weekend after the bars have closed, and they will be causing a huge amount of noise disruption.”

Morpeth Town Council has also objected to the application.

Its Planning and Transport Committee Chairman Joan Tebbutt said: “We heard from three members of the public who were expressing their extreme concerns because the undercroft car park is being used by boy racers at night. They have complained umpteen times about it.

“We have the greatest sympathy for the residents and have added our objection.

“We also don’t quite understand why Morrisons has to have 24-hour parking there. If staff are going to come in between 10pm and 8am, why not park upstairs in the normal parking area? We can’t see the reason for this application.”

Morpeth Neighbourhood Inspector Grant Dawson said: “Reports of anti-social behaviour and crimes in the area are fairly low, however they are both priorities for us in Morpeth. When we have received reports of problems at the car park we have attended and taken action.

“Officers carry out regular patrols around the site because we know it is an area where young people gather. These patrols will continue across summer and into autumn and we will continue to take action against anyone found committing offences or responsible for causing disorder.

“We have a good working relationship with local businesses in Morpeth and we will look to meet with Morrisons and work with it to improve on security measures for the area.”