New look for Felixstowe town centre
IDEAS have been put forward to pave the way for a new era in shopping in Felixstowe – but the town's traders say no way.Planners and traffic experts are pushing ahead with moves to pedestrianise the resort's centre, and plan to gradually increase the time it is closed to cars.
By Richard Cornwell
IDEAS have been put forward to pave the way for a new era in shopping in Felixstowe – but the town's traders say no way.
Planners and traffic experts are pushing ahead with moves to pedestrianise the resort's centre, and plan to gradually increase the time it is closed to cars.
But shopkeepers are furious that the project is being put forward again, and have launched a new protest campaign because they say it just will not work and could drive some of them out of business.
Chamber of trade chairman Roger Hewitt said shops and businesses were already aware of Suffolk Coastal council's intentions to keep pressing for a traffic ban in Hamilton Road between Boots and Bank Corner.
"We have objected quite strongly to this and have already sent a letter giving our views that we would be against any form of pedestrianisation during the week because of the failure of the scheme eight years ago," said Mr Hewitt.
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"At present the area is pedestrianised on Saturdays and that works reasonably well – Saturday is a family shopping day with more people about, and is very different to the weekdays.
"During the week the majority of people using the town centre are there for perhaps only 15 to 20 minutes.
"They want to park as close to the shop they are visiting as possible, nip and buy what they need, and then go on their way.
"If they cannot park in Hamilton Road, they will go elsewhere for their shopping and town centre businesses will suffer."
Mr Hewitt said he had not found one trader for pedestrianisation and everyone was against it at the present time.
He said the experiment in the early 1990s, when the street was closed full-time for six months, had failed miserably and traders – particularly those who rely on passing trade – had lost thousands of pounds.
One shopkeeper alone had seen his taking slump by £1,500 a week.
"I know pedestrianisation works in a lot of towns, but it doesn't work in Felixstowe. There may be things which work here which don't in other places," said Mr Hewitt.
Suffolk Coastal's policy is that pedestrians should have priority over vehicles in the town centre and it is working to encourage businesses to retain and provide rear access for deliveries so that a scheme could be developed in the future.
The draft local action plan for the resort – the outcome of an extensive study by consultants Faber Maunsell – suggests the main shopping area will be fully pedestrianised within 15 years and gradual work towards this start soon.
The cabinet will discuss the plan on Tuesday October 15 and councillors are being recommended to support its ideas, though a detailed evaluation of the impact on traders and traffic will be undertaken as the next stage.
copy for panel:
The local action plan for Felixstowe and the Trimleys contains schemes costing £1.5 million to be done over the next decade and include:
n Closing Bent Hill to traffic within a year
n Creation of cycle routes
n Setting up of a public transport interchange at the rail station
n 20mph speed limits outside all schools within a year
n Pedestrian-friendly measures in Sea Road to reduce boy-racer problems
n Put in place major incident management plan for A14