December 21 2013 Latest news:
Dean Kilpatrick, Reporter
Friday, August 10, 2012
Chamber of Commerce says businesses should embrace opoortunity
A TRIAL scheme to revolutionise a high street has begun despite some critics suggesting it could put them out of business.
The controversial pilot by Swale Borough Council to make central Faversham a pedestrian-only area on Fridays began last week amidst complaints by traders.
The nine-month trial is an extension of the ban on motorists in the area on Saturdays, but business owners say Fridays will have more of damaging effect.
And there are also fears the pedestrian-only zone will become a permanent seven-days-a-week fixture.
Part-owner of Jadz Restaurant in Preston Street Wendy Parry said: “The first week of the trial didn’t go very well for us.
“The deliveries aren’t a huge problem because we can move it to another day, but it’s our regulars, some of whom are disabled and elderly, who are suffering.
“A lot of our regular customers come in early in the morning, so we are losing two or three each day because of the system.”
Jadz is part of a row of shops in Jacob’s Yard which have been affected by the move, and there are worries that if one of them gets into trouble and closes even fewer customers will come to the area and a domino effect will see the remaining traders hit the skids.
Four of the properties in the yard are owned by Biddenden Property Investments, and its director Paul Parsons has previously said: “There are many empty shop units in Faversham and as a town is struggling to survive.
“If Preston Street closes on Friday, it could be the final nail in the coffin and some of these businesses will close.”
Ms Parry added: “We’re worried that if one business leaves the yard (because of the closure) then it will impact the rest of the business because there are only a small number of shops in the yard and we run off each other.”
Despite hearing “a few grumbles” from local businesses, the chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce Jo James said the opportunity should be embraced.
She said: “You have to bear in mind, it’s only on a Friday and it’s only 10am until 4pm and not the whole day so I understand businesses’ concerns but deliveries can be made during the rest of the day.
“I am sure if someone wants your business then they will be flexible.
“The benefits outweigh all the negatives. My view is that is a very challenging retail environment at the moment and it’s essential to attract shoppers into our towns and we have to create a nice ambiance and safe environment for them.”
A spokesman for Swale Borough Council said: “It is hard to say how the scheme has gone so far as it has only been in place for one day; we need to give it some time for people to adjust to the scheme and to see if it works. Should there be significant issues with the scheme then it can be called in for review at any time.
“The signs are correct and it is a legal requirement of an experimental traffic order that it operates for a maximum period of up to 18 months. However, a review can be undertaken and changes made at any time within that traffic order period.
“I can confirm that it is our intention to review the scheme after six months of operation. We have given the time of six months as it will give the opportunity to see how the scheme could work in summer and winter seasons.”