Angry traders in North Walsham are holding a meeting in the town centre on Friday to air their concerns about the scheme to pedestrianise Market Place.
Under the scheme – part of the Heritage Action Zone project – there will be no through traffic, with set times for deliveries and just a handful of parking spaces for disabled drivers.
Business owners complained about the plans when they were first mooted in 2020, when covid-19 regulations were labelled as “pedestrianisation through stealth”, and once again they are worried that the plans will hurt their livelihoods. But those behind the scheme believe it will actually improve business.
Alan Kelly, who owns Kelly’s Plaice fish and chip shop, said the changes would not help his business, which relied on customers being able to stop outside and pop in to pick up their food.
“They want to turn the Market Place into some Parisian-style café society but this is England. It rains more than the sun shines.
“Yes, certain aspects need upgrading or renewing, I can understand that, but in essence this will stifle trade. Within the last three or four months two shops have become vacant and if they stop people driving through the centre it will make things worse.”
MP Duncan Baker will be at the meeting, which will be by the clock tower at 10am, and said he had been approached by several worried traders and residents.
“My office has received a petition with 600 signatures on it, concerned over the proposals,” he said. “I am meeting with those worried to hear their concerns and we ask that the council listens for once to what people who use the town day in and day out, really want. We saw in the pandemic the council shut the town centre, which was a job to get it back open. We really need far better engagement with the town centre so people feel the businesses are being listened to.”
Alan said he had spoken to businesses in the town, who said nobody had asked their opinion, but North Norfolk District Council said there had been plenty of consultation.
Richard Kershaw, portfolio holder for sustainable growth, said: “After a long period of consultation with residents, visitors and business owners there is definite support for a more pedestrian-friendly marketplace and town centre. We absolutely recognise there has been, and continues to be, challenges for business owners in North Walsham and we are actively working with them to establish their exact individual needs when it comes to this specific project such as the requirements for deliveries and loading.
“With this once-in-a-lifetime injection of funding for the town it is hoped that the regenerated high street will actually bring more customers to their shops and that visitors will want to spend more time in the town taking advantage of the goods and services on offer.”
North Walsham Town Council also said it had engaged with townsfolk throughout and that the plans had changed as a result of responses from local people.
“North Walsham Town Council have at all times tried to consult with the public through meetings, social media postings, canvassing at the market and in media articles encouraging people to engage and let their views be heard.
“We are aware that there are people in and around the town who are unhappy with the proposed changes, as well as the majority who have supported it in surveys and public engagement.
“The current plans produced by NNDC’s designer have changed significantly since the earliest concepts, reflecting concerns raised by public, traders and by the town council. Deliveries to shops are now to be permitted at all times, disabled parking will remain in the Market Place and free parking spaces will be provided in Bank Loke and Vicarage Street car parks.”