THE “death knell” could be sounding for Cheap Street traders amid plans to further restrict parking in the area as West Berkshire Council attempts to improve traffic flow through Newbury town centre.
Retailers, restaurants, pubs and cafés have raised fears that the drop in trade brought about by less parking could be enough to put many out of business if the proposals go ahead.
West Berkshire Council is planning to restrict the on-street parking during daytime hours to accommodate the additional traffic, which would access Cheap Street from a proposed new junction off the A339.
However, the owner of Empire Cafe, Wendy Berkeley, said the move would be "devastating" for hers and neighbouring businesses.
“If people can’t park out there they don’t come,” she said.
“We get quite a lot of people from the villages around, but we’ve already lost customers from Ashmore Green and Cold Ash because the bus services were stopped.
“It could be the death knell in a way.”
She added: “We’ve been here for 70 years.
“I’m freehold but if I wasn’t I probably would have packed up and gone.”
Stephen Mckinnon, who set up Abstract Bodyworks Gym in Kings Road West, said he feels customers are being driven away from the area by some of West Berkshire Council’s planning decisions.
On top of the latest proposals, Mr Mckinnon said the introduction of parking charges for those staying longer than half an hour (introduced last year) as well as plans for the Market Street development – which when complete will encourage pedestrians to exit the train station on to Market Street rather than Cheap Street – could spell the end for traders. “It feels like death by a thousand cuts,” he said. “There’s a whole bunch of shops that rely on passing footfall or the quick drop-in.”
Speaking about the planned parking changes, owner of fancy dress shop Pageant Party, Lionel Zeffertt, said West Berkshire Council need to show more support to the traders.
He said: “It will be devastating – there’s no other word to describe it.
“We pay business rates at town centre rates but we’re not in the town centre anymore.
“The council need to make their mind up.”
Members of Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways committee also raised concerns over the future of Cheap Street traders after recently receiving a presentation on the planned changes to the traffic layout.
Current proposals will see the introduction of an eastbound one-way system in Bear Lane between Wharf Road and the A339, as well as the installation of a new signal-controlled junction on the A339 to allow southbound traffic to turn right into Cheap Street.
The proposals intend to improve the traffic flow over the Sainsbury’s roundabout, which regularly becomes congested in busy periods.
Following the presentation, committee members said they would welcome the improvements to the traffic flow, however, councillors also said the effect of restricted parking on the traders was a “major concern”.
Julian Swift-Hook (Lib Dem, Pyle Hill) said: “If that particular area is going to be restricted still further there is very likely to be an impact on retailers and a lot of the smaller businesses may not have the financial backing to survive that impact.”
West Berkshire Council’s highways officer Neil Stacey accepted there would likely be a negative impact and said the council needed to gain a better understanding of parking habits in the area.
He added that it might come down to a choice of what’s more important, the improved traffic flow or the on-street parking for traders.
Chairing the meeting, Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill) said: “We do have to take regards of the existing businesses, some of them very long established, and we don’t want to unnecessarily put them out of business.
“That is a very major concern.”
Spokesman for West Berkshire Council, Martin Dunscombe, said: “There are no planned reductions in parking bays but to restrict parking by time of day.
“However, the loss of parking and its effect on local businesses has been a recurring theme during the consultation.
“We’re currently assessing responses to the consultation, which closed on Sunday, and are actively considering possible alternatives to this particular issue.”