Today I met with a number of local business owners who are concerned that the footfall to their premises has significantly reduced since the reversal of traffic flow through the town. Four businesses reported that unless this improves they could be forced out of business altogether.
Trade had only picked up slightly since the end of the gas works. Further concerns were expressed at the speed of traffic, so whilst there were fewer cars, businesses reported they were travelling faster down Fore Street. This is a contentious issue as I also hear from people who would like me to join the campaign to make the town centre car-free.
There is no doubt that businesses benefit from income that comes via passing trade from people who drive and want to pop into the shops having parked. I may be a keen walker and cyclist myself but the reality is that some people simply will not shop unless they can park very close by and this is often because of restricted mobility. Rather than driving their custom elsewhere and reducing the income for local businesses, we should in my view, carefully review the impact on their trade and of course on pedestrian safety over the coming months.
There may be a period of adjustment whilst visitors get used to the new layout but it would be dreadful to lose more businesses from Fore Street by not responding to evidence at a time when conditions are already challenging. I will be meeting businesses again to monitor the effects and calling on Devon County Council to do likewise.
In the meantime I am backing the call from Transition Town Totnes to shop locally as much as possible to support our High Street and keep money within our local economy. I am also keen to hear the views of residents and visitors on this matter, however I must recommend businesses to contact the Chamber of Commerce also as they are best placed to help them be heard on this matter, they can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also submit your views on this matter to Devon County Council via this link