Council decision is ‘a slap in the face’

A MORPETH trader has accused the county council of insensitivity over its decision to remove the one-way system for a special event.

The restriction was put in place six weeks ago so the authority could carry out major footpath improvement works. It is set to come off on Friday, March 7.

Vehicles coming into the town from the south have had to turn right at Telford Bridge as the westbound lane on Bridge Street was closed.

To help shop owners, the system was taken off at weekends, but the council did not take up suggestions to bring in free parking during the period or to change the route so cars could drop passengers off in Bridge Street.

It was then removed on Monday and Tuesday to help the authority’s Meet The Maker, Meet The Buyer event at the Chantry, Town Hall and Riverside Leisure Centre.

But the move has come in for criticism from photographer Ken Stait, who owns a shop on Newgate Street.

He said: “I have spoken to a lot of businesses in the town centre and many of them have seen their takings go down by 20 to 30 per cent over the last six weeks.

“Tourism is important to the local economy, but to suspend the one-way system for this event was a bit of a slap in the face to traders who will now have to put up with it for a couple more days.

“It seems the council’s emphasis is on supporting its own activities because our requests for help were ignored.”

The event gave a platform to various ‘makers’, from food and drink producers and artists to music makers, to sell to buyers such as galleries, gift shops, tourist attractions, specialist retailers and hotels.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “More than 400 business owners were in Morpeth on Monday and Tuesday for this event.

“The council’s street works team agreed to suspend the one-way system for these two days as we expected that the extra traffic could put a strain on the road network and cause problems for local people. As the one-way system is currently off at weekends, it was reasonable to extend that for another two days.

“Local traders also benefited from the event as a large number of people were using the coffee shops and cafes in Morpeth over the two days.”