March 17, 2022 6.00 pm

Louth traders fear parking changes will be end of their businesses

Concerns walking and cycling improvements will deter shoppers

Business owners in Louth fear changes to parking in the town centre could be the end of them, as they try to keep afloat following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lincolnshire County Council’s new “experimental order” will include the removal of on-street parking and widening pedestrian footways as part of a bid to make walking and cycling easier.

However a number of traders said they have not been properly consulted and that shoppers will be deterred from visiting if they cannot park nearby.

From Tuesday, the changes include:

  • The closure of Cornmarket and Butcher Lane to motor vehicles and the removal of all on-street parking on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
  • Pay and Display parking in Market Place will be replaced by disabled parking on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays to increase provision for Blue Badge holders. On market days the usual restrictions will be in place.
  • Parking bays on Mercer Row (outside numbers 19–33) will be removed to accommodate a wider area for pedestrian use, delineated by planters/barriers. A similar scheme will take place on Eastgate in the future

The trial will be in place for 18 months and locals will be invited to submit feedback. If supported the changes will be made permanent.

Those criticising the plans don’t believe people will cycle in from the villages for shopping and said elderly shoppers could be prevented from accessing the high street.

They fear the plans could wipe out any help they were given during the pandemic and warn they could “simply go out of business”.

Documents showing the proposed traffic changes. | Image: LCC

Butcher John Woolliss, owner of Fairburns butchers, said customers like to see meat before they buy while catering businesses he supplied pull-up in front to load up their orders.

He said the loss of spaces would “affect our trade without a doubt” adding the paths were already the widest in the town.

“Deliveries will be a nightmare and will lead to traffic being backed up,” he warned. “We stand to lose a lot of business, this is just not thought through.”

Marie Preston has run Rio Retro for six years and is a member of Louth Independent Traders. However, she also criticised a lack of consultation.

“I have no alternative, I have to pull up on Mercer Row and I cannot use a loading bay as that is reserved for commercial vehicles only and I don’t want a ticket,” she said.

“There has never been a massive problem down here so why are they tampering with it… If my business is forced to close I will hold the county council responsible.”

Helen Grant runs H&J Arts and Crafts and said crafting is a hobby enjoyed by hundreds of disabled and elderly. She said it had assisted hugely with wellbeing and tackling mental health issues.

She said: “We have been completely blindsided by this. We have shop local and save the High Street campaigns and then they now want to do this. It’s ridiculous.”

East Lindsey District Councillor Andrew Leonard has two businesses in the town but said “no-one has had the courtesy to keep me informed, not even the district council”.

“At Louth Town Council we have had no formal consultation too,” he added.

He was concerned that a lack of parking provision for the disabled on market days would leave them struggling to get into the centre from car parks further out.

Businesses said they were supportive of a cafe culture-style improvement but said it should be limited to market days.

They understood the plans for an entertainment space but said traders do not want potentially noisy activity seven days a week

Petitions later this week will ask people to support a “Save Our Shops” campaign.

Lincolnshire County Council is looking to improve cycling and walking provision across the county. | Image: LCC

Lincolnshire County Council said it had consulted on the plans last year, with 2,750 residents across the whole of Lincolnshire responding to its proposals.

They said the measures will provide dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists and create outdoor opportunities for businesses.

Schemes in Grantham, Lincoln, Skegness and Sturton by Stow were also given the go ahead. Though others in Boston, Mablethorpe and Spalding were not.

They will be funded from a £799,000 grant from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund.

Councillor Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transport, said: “When we launched this consultation last year, we were clear that only those schemes with public support would get the go ahead and, in Louth, 64% of consultation responses were positive towards our ‘active town centre’ proposals, while 27% weren’t.

“We’ve listened to what residents have told us and made amendments to the scheme based on their feedback.

“It’s important to remember that this is an experimental trial that will last up to 18 months.

“During that time, we’ll continue taking feedback on-board … and if they don’t work for Louth, we can take them out again easily.”