Last night, Ludlow Town Council met to consider plans for a social distanced town. As part of this, it discussed proposals to close King Street and High Street to vehicles on Friday and Saturdays. This is move controversial to say the least. Many, if not most, retailers and market traders oppose the closures fearing a loss of trade. People are also concerned that those with limited mobility will be excluded from the town centre on the biggest shopping days.
The changes will be temporary and can be introduced within seven days of Shropshire Council deciding to do so. I support closure on weekends. Tracey Huffer opposes closures. Viv Parry, Richard Huffer, Tracey and I are calling for a formal Equalities Impact Assessment before any changes are made.
I was unable to attend the meeting and Tracey spoke on my behalf.
“I support an experimental closure of King Street. But this should not include Friday. This is the day when many of the deliveries to retailers for the weekend arrive. It is not practical to suggest deliveries should arrive before 10am as happens in bigger towns and towns close to distribution centres. Deliveries in Ludlow are a small part of very long rounds. Merchandise that can’t be delivered on Friday if King Street is closed will have to be delivered on Monday. That wrecks the cycle of just in time delivery that many of our businesses rely on. Closing King Street on Saturday will have less impact on deliveries. I support that as an experiment. “I also in favour closing King Street on Sundays to support trade and social distancing. Retailers will have reduced trade once they reopen. We can encourage more Ludlow retailers to open on Sunday by closing King Street, the major bottleneck in our town. We need to spread trade out across seven days to ensure we can attract as much retail spend as possible into Ludlow.”
Tracey Huffer followed saying she does not support closure of King Street. She had spoken to market readers about closing King Street on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They say that the proposed closure would have a significant impact on their revenue. She had also spoken to elderly and disabled residents in the town and they are concerned that they will not be able to get access to the shops and market if King Street is closed and the bus is diverted. Even the walk from the proposed bus stops will be too far for some to walk to cafes and shops at the top end of our town. They should not be penalised for being less mobile. She urged to council to look at other options to keep King Street open. People who I have spoken to fear this will not be a temporary closure but a permanent one. She called for an assurance from the council that a full 18-week consultation will take place with traders, businesses, and residents. Also, that the closure must be removed straight away if problems arise.
Mayor Tim Gill replied that he would not be in favour of closure of King Street becoming permanent.
Town Clerk Gina Wilding said that all the actions are temporary and under constant review. It would be Shropshire Council that would have the capacity to make the closures permanent but it would only do that if there was support for it.
Glenn Ginger, supported closing on Fridays and Saturdays, saying that Shropshire Council officers had been discussing a full closure, that is seven days a week.
Councillor Mark Clarke said he had reservations about Fridays. Are there alternative routes into the town for deliveries? Before closing Fridays, we need to consider that.
Councillor Rod Naysmith said that the town is very busy with pedestrians on Sunday and he would want closure on Saturday and Sunday.
Councillor Adrian Cobley raised concerns about deliveries by couriers on their rounds, which are often not before 10am, especially on the Friday.
Councillor Grahame Perks said he watched the Representational Committee meeting that had discussed these proposals. He had formed the opinion that Shropshire Council was likely to do what it wanted anyway. In terms of Andy Boddington’s comments, “I don’t think we should endorse any street closures only for that to be used as ammunition in the future against us.” He added, given the recent vandalism of signs, we should be more cautious in accepting any more signs than we need.
Most councillors did not comment on the proposal.
The motion to accept the Representational Committee’s report and thereby approve the close of King Street and High Street on Fridays and Saturdays was approved by all councillors present bar three who abstained.
Any closure can be put in place within seven days in Shropshire Council agrees. The closure will be advertised but there will be no consultation. Once the closure has begun, Shropshire Council will begin a consultation. The closure could last for up to 18 months but could be cancelled immediately if problems occur. Any closure will be under national legislation for Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders.