‘Trade is down by a third’ - shopkeeper launches petition against road closures as MP joins fight
PUBLISHED: 14:58 11 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:04 12 July 2020
Picture: Casey Cooper-Fiske
A shopkeeper has launched a petition after he said town centre road closures had cut his trade by a third.
Bob White, who owns Showcase Gallery in North Walsham, launched the petition on Saturday morning, with residents queuing up to sign it.
Mr White has been campaigning against the closure of the town’s market place to traffic since it was announced on July 1.
Just last week he led a group of 20 to 30 of the town’s traders and shoppers take part in a protest against the closures and now he is planning further action.
Mr White said: “This is crucial. We were all told on Monday that there would be a review [of the measures] in a week’s time. This is going to be a very long week - my trade is down by a third since they closed it.”
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “They’ve put these [benches] right where disabled people are supposed to park.
“Okay, they might close the town to people that haven’t got a blue badge, but those with mobility issues need access to shops.”
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North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker, who was also in attendance on Saturday, has now written a letter to North Norfolk District Council.
He said: “I was greeted with huge and very understandable anger by virtually everyone I met. The community thinks the council, by closing the Market Place, is ‘killing the town’.
“There has been a lack of consultation and an unwillingness to listen to traders’ fears, with some reporting takings down by a third since the town was closed off.
“High Streets need footfall – if you make it harder for people to shop, they will bypass the town, which is what has happened.
“Even more concerning was how many upset disabled people I met. They are having to walk a considerable distance to access the shops. They feel the council does not care about their needs and the solution in place at Bank Loke is a long walk which many are struggling with.”
A North Norfolk Council spokesman said of the road closures: “We are aware that some traders in the Market Place have concerns about the measures being put in place, however we want to create a positive environment in which businesses can trade whilst giving local people and visitors the reassurance that they can shop as safely as possible.
“The district council recognises the difficult but necessary decisions which need to be made in North Walsham where there are narrow pavements and issues with queuing and social distancing given the small size of many business premises in the town centre.
“The council believes the measures to remove vehicles and parking from the Market Place are part of a considered, collaborative approach to welcome shoppers and visitors safely back to our North Walsham town centre.”
They added: “These are temporary measures and will be kept under review to see if they are still needed.”
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