Consultation held on Beccles Friday market

SHOPPERS, traders and shop keepers in Beccles are being asked to have their say on a road closure that has caused divisions in the town.

New Market has been closed to traffic between 6am and 4pm on Fridays since August, but while the market traders have benefited from this, shopkeepers along the road are upset it has been impacting on their business.

Now the row is to be taken to a consultation with members of the public asked to have their say about whether they think the road closure should remain or be abandoned.

On Wednesday, a meeting was held at the Town Hall that revealed that the consultation would take place.

Beccles county councillor Chris Punt said he supported the road closure and that it had made the market a safer place.

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He said 'The idea was to bring more people into the town which would help the other shops as well. We held a consultation about a year ago and at the time had one objection.'

Waveney District Council spent �10,500 on the scheme, while the town council contributed �6,000 to close the road with a view to helping the market expand.

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Mr Punt said: 'The number of stalls we have at the market has extended and it seems to work well in my opinion.'

Market trader Dominic Parkes said: 'I think we all want the same thing. We want a thriving, vibrant Beccles town centre, not just on Friday but every day throughout the year.'

He added: 'I am all for compromise and working together with shopkeepers, it is in our interest, as their customers are there for us and ours are for them. I believe we should be working together for new ways of doing things.'

However, Mr Parkes said that the town needed change and that allowing the road to be open would be a step back and that it needed to be given a 'decent period of time' to clearly see the effect.

He also said 210 signatures had been collected on a petition to keep the road closed last Friday.

Deputy town mayor Graham Catchpole said that he felt that the meeting had not been correctly balanced because there were no shopkeepers there.

He added that they had strong concerns against the road closures, with town mayor Brian Woodruff 'inundated' with complaints.

When told about the meeting later in the week, Christine Pinsent, chairman of the Beccles Business Association, explained that the majority of retailers in New Market are not happy with the situation and have seen takings fall with the flow of traffic severely upset.

Craig Anderson, of Linen Press, said: 'Our business relies on drop offs. People like driving to the front of the shop and dropping things off, and we are not the only business like that.'

He added: 'The worrying thing is a lot of people come in on certain days of the week and some of those people who came in on Fridays you don't see any more.'

Mr Anderson said he was not against the market but that he would like to see it moved so that the road could be open.

Mike Sturman, of Focus 23, added that he would at least like to see the stalls turned around so people would walk on the path.

He said: 'Our shop visibility is down because people walk up and down the centre of the path and not walk on the pavement.'

The consultation is to run until March 31. Anyone with a view is encouraged to write to The Town Hall, The Walk, Beccles, NR34 9AJ, email or call 01502 712109.

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