MP shares traders' traffic ban fears

An MP has urged the use of "lateral thinking" after a row between traders in North Walsham and the town and county councils took a new turn. Traders have reacted angrily to news that the two councils have put together a plan to pedestrianise the town centre on a Saturday in a bid to make the market place quieter and safer for shoppers.

An MP has urged the use of "lateral thinking" after a row between traders in North Walsham and the town and county councils took a new turn.

Traders have reacted angrily to news that the two councils have put together a plan to pedestrianise the town centre on a Saturday in a bid to make the market place quieter and safer for shoppers.

The plan would effectively mirror the position on a Thursday, when the market place is cordoned off for a weekly street market. However, the Saturday closure would not see a market being held.

People running a range of businesses have signed a petition and written to the authorities criticising the plan, which they feel will kill trade in the market place and in some cases could make the difference between success and mere survival.

They have pledged to lobby the next meeting of the town council and fight the move, citing the recent successful campaign to save the town's cottage hospital as an example of a "triumph over bureaucracy".

Colin Page, who runs Page's Tobacconist and Confectioners, described the proposed year-long trial as "ridiculous".

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"Put very simply, cars bring trade, without cars the passing trade is lost," said Mr Page. "The current 30-minute parking slots, while not enough, are an invaluable asset to the town traders and the loss of these, even for one day a week, could make a real difference to trade."

Other businesses to have signed the letter include Waterloo Stores, Broadland Travel, Express Printing, Habalou Craft Centre, Moonshine Off Licence, Country Pets, Hughes Electrical, North Walsham Fishmongers and many others.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has an office in the town centre behind which he parks occasionally on a Saturday, said the concerns of traders had to be taken very seriously, as the vitality of the town depended on their success.

"Anything that damages trade is bad from the town's point of view," said Mr Lamb.

"The traders absolutely must be consulted on this, which has not happened yet. They are anxious and angry, which is hardly surprising since the first they heard about this was from an EDP reporter telling them about it a week or so ago.

"The other thing is that a year is a long time - why not trial it for four weeks instead? And what about considering other options, alternatives to the complete exclusion of cars?

"What it needs is some lateral thinking and adequate consultation."

Norfolk County Council bosses have said they will discuss the plans with traders before they are implemented, but that a formal consultation process would only occur during the year-long Saturday closures.

The town council has already given the plans its support.

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