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Businesses launch petition against High Street pedestrianisation

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Chris Longworth with Claire Rumary Cards Plus pedestrianisation petition

BUSINESSES want their views on pedestrianisation of the High Street heard by the town council as some believe the scheme threatens the current trade in the town. 

At a recent council meeting, Westbury Town Council discussed the idea of pedestrianisation of the High Street as a way to revive the shopping experience for residents and visitors to the town.

On reading the article in Issue 694 of the White Horse News, businesses have hit back at the idea, claiming that it will kill off any current retail in the town and drive shoppers elsewhere. A petition has been started by Cards Plus, who have been trading in the High Street for 20 years, as a way to show the town council that many businesses and residents object to the idea.

Chris Longworth and Claire Rumary, mother and daughter owners of Cards Plus told White Horse News, “We are not in favour of the idea to pedestrianise the High Street, we felt strongly enough about it to start a petition that we have passed around other businesses in the town. So far we have received pages of signatures against the idea. What the town council don’t realise is that it’s not just businesses at stake, it’s jobs too! If coming into our shop stops becoming a convenience for people, with not being able to park right outside, we won’t have enough business to warrant having the amount of employees we do, and therefore would have to cut down, with people losing their jobs!

“The town council’s idea to ‘revive the shopping experience’ is questionable – what shopping experience? If there are no shops, there is no experience. They need to do more to encourage businesses to come to the town, especially now there are new housing estates. It takes a lot for small businesses to open up, so they would welcome the help.

“Also, how will these evening markets help businesses in the town? We are all closed after 6pm, so won’t get the trade from the visitors of the market. Any small town like ours dies after 6pm because nothing is open. The markets are a great idea, but won’t help daytime shopping. 

“The idea also stops disabled people being able to easily walk to shops and  passers-by from quickly and conveniently making purchases. If we don’t act now, this mad idea will happen under our noses. Please don’t go ahead with this idea otherwise the high street will well and truly be dead.”

Gary Davies of Davies of Westbury – the department store on Edward Street – told White Horse News, “I am all for the council being proactive and trying to improve the High Street, but pedestrianisation is not the answer. 

“The idea would cut Davies and the library directly off from the main street and the parking across from the library would be lost and ultimately would be a disaster for them. Plus, our three parking spaces out the front are gold dust to us and help to provide a lot of our trade.

“Pedestrianisation doesn’t work – all it does it drive people away and divides up the town centre. It works for larger cities such as Bath where they need to keep the huge amounts of tourists away from the heavy traffic and allow them to zig-zag their way through the shops, but doesn’t work in small/medium sized towns like Westbury. If people don’t have the convenience, they go elsewhere and it becomes a disaster. 

 “In terms of them wanting to pedestrianise the area for markets – they redeveloped the Market Place for that reason! Why can’t these markets go there? Since those developments happened, there is now no longer a shop in the Market Place due to them getting rid of most of the parking. There is proof within our own town that pedestrianisation doesn’t work!

“Plus, why would Westbury want a market, when the most successful market in the South West is just up the road in Frome? What impact would Westbury’s have against that?

“I have no complaints about Westbury – it has been good to us for nearly 40 years; the people are very supportive. There is successful retail in the town but the council need to tap in to this potential and look into encouraging more in the town. 

“It’s important that traders get their views across to the council. The idea needs to be discussed more because my view is that the businesses in this town will suffer whilst works are being done and ultimately close way before the town sees any kind of effect from pedestrianisation. It simply is the wrong time to do it.”

Mayor, cllr Ian Cunningham has responded to comments from businesses and residents, saying, “There seems to be rather a lot of confusion about this, the town council’s position, what we are doing and, indeed, what we can do.

“The town council spends a lot of time considering our town centre and its problems, but we have limited powers and budget, so we don’t have any magic wand. Wiltshire Council do have more powers but are, frankly, currently not very interested in Westbury’s High Street. At a recent Wiltshire Council market town meeting I attended on behalf of the town, they made it quite clear their current focus, with limited resources, would be Salisbury, Chippenham and Trowbridge.”

For comment in full from Ian Cunningham see our Letters to the Editor page. 

One Response to Businesses launch petition against High Street pedestrianisation

  1. Dan Gmaj

    May 8, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Permanent pedestrianisation is not the answer:

    A few Westbury Town Councillors genuinely care about issues in the town and are ready to roll up their sleeves and muck in too! But this suggestion, or even it’s consultation for Permanent pedestrianisation, indeed further pedestrianisation at all of the high street, would not in my opinion be a useful goal to strive for. Town councillors, just like community group leaders require #CommunityInput so each of us should make this the opportunity to make just one small suggestion to help them achieve an incremental step along the path of gradual improvement and avoid unnecessary argument wherever possible 🙂

    Here is mine: Dear Westbury Town Councillors, please know that our high street and its approaches are already a really good balance of good access and safety for vehicle and pedestrians. Shops empting are a concern but there have been small recent successes too such as the Sub post office (now run of their feet apparently. My advice to councillors is to know your limitations individually and work together to use the precept finances and resources available from the Laverton and WTC staff to best serve your community. You may believe that you are already doing this, but please also see that if you are of this belief that there is always room for improvement. ‘Incremental improvement’ should always be your goal, no matter how small that increment may appear! Please discuss, and I Thank You for reading 🙂