'We rely on people passing through' - Shopkeepers concerns over plans for town centre

North Walsham Businesses annoyed that marketplace will be pedestrianised. Brian, Waterloo Store, Ia

North Walsham Businesses annoyed that marketplace will be pedestrianised. Brian, Waterloo Store, Ian Jackson, Sam's Pets, Peter, Kelly's Plaice, Colin Page, Pages Confectionery and Tobacconist and Isaac Crass, Express Printing and Stationery. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Shopkeepers concerned about £3.6m plans for North Walsham have said that businesses might be forced to close - but the district council says the plans will "breathe new life" into the town.

Proposals drawn up by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) would see the town's Market Place open only to permit holders, blue badge holders and loading from 4pm to 10am.

Through traffic and short-stay parking places would be swept away, replaced with wider footpaths, seating and awnings, as well as four disabled parking bays.

North Walsham Market Place

Proposals drawn up by North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) would see North Walsham Market Place open only to permit holders, blue badge holders and loading from 4pm to 10am - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Signs in six shop windows in the Market Place display their opposition, with some saying "No Traffic, No Custom, No Shops" and others declaring "No Parking, No Loading, No Trade".

Colin Page, who owns a confectionery and tobacconists, said: "My concern is that anything that restricts vehicular access and parking is bound to restrict trade."

Currently, there are 16 parking spaces in the Market Place, with free parking for 30 minutes.

Mr Page said: "You're looking at a potential loss of 30 people in one hour.

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"All market towns are struggling after Covid. The last thing you need is something that could further restrict trade.

"I fear it could lead to closures and small independent shops will suffer the most, and they are they ones that make the town unique."

A council spokesperson said: "In any regeneration project of this kind there will undoubtedly be some disruption while large capital works are taking place.

"We have extensively consulted and continue to work with residents and businesses in the town centre. 

"Many businesses recognise that the nature of town centres and the reasons for visiting them are changing."

But Isaac Crass, store manager at Express Printing and Stationery, said: "If it's harder to park here then it seems people don't stop."

Ian Jackson, owner of Sam's Pets, added: "As yet, nobody has told us what the actual plans are, but this is something that will potentially affect all of our lives."

Michelle Foyster, who has worked in the shop for seven years, said: "We rely on people passing through the town, parking up and popping into the shop."