Protest held against 'pedestrian-friendly' plans in North Walsham
- Credit: Brittany Woodman
Dozens of people turned out to voice their opinions on turning North Walsham’s town centre into a pedestrian-friendly zone.
The proposal is part of North Norfolk District Council's ongoing 'place making' project and could see improved pedestrian crossing points, cycle lanes and the removal of through traffic from the Market Place.
The proposal has divided opinion, with a council cabinet member saying businesses in the town were being won over by the plans. This was not the feeling coming from the protesters, with the majority present being against the plans.
One of the organisers of the protest was Alan Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Plaice. Mr Kelly believes the plans could have a devastating effect on the trade in the town.
“If this goes ahead, I will just have to close the shop up, simple as that,” he said.
“Trade is really poor at the moment, two shops have closed in the last two or three months, and they don’t close for no reason, they close up because there is no trade.
“You’ll kill it, and I don’t mean just two shops, but a whole bunch of them.”
However, Richard Kershaw, council portfolio holder for sustainable growth, believes there is support for the idea: “ 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 have been and continue to be, challenges for business owners in North Walsham. We are actively working with them to establish their exact individual needs when it comes to this specific project.
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“With this once-in-a-lifetime injection of funding for the town, it is hoped that the regenerated high street will 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 Norfolk MP Duncan Baker, was present at the protest, as he is concerned that NNDC is not hearing the businesses: “I’m concerned that the Liberal Democrats are not listening to the town’s traders who have real concerns about it being wholesale pedestrianised.
“My job here today was to make sure that there’s a signal sent back to the district council and say you haven’t consulted with them.
“My distinct concern with this is, if you restrict access into a town, you restrict footfall, and if you restrict footfall, you will see trade fall away, and that has not been borne in mind enough from what the traders tell me.
“My message back to the council is please, listen to the people who make a livelihood out of North Walsham and come back to them with some sensible ideas about how you use this money.”
Another against the idea was local mother, Amber Footer, who lives on King’s Arms Street. She is worried that an already narrow footpath, which leaves part of her child’s buggy off the edge, will become more dangerous with increased traffic.
“If the Arctic’s (vans) are more frequent down here and not able to go through the town, there is the danger of one of them clipping my pram. When you are on the road already, they come so close to you and make your heart flutter.”
Not everyone is against the proposal, John Fleming, who lives in North Walsham supports it, believing it is time to shake things up in the town.
“I think that we need to try something new, the same old formula of flogging a dead horse clearly isn’t working because quite a few shops are shutting,” he said.
“I’m in favour of trying something continental.
“I think it would give them a fighting chance.”