Businesses on Shakespeare Street have given a scathing response to proposals that would see the street pedestrianised.
Mobility charity Sustrans are consulting on the scheme which is designed to encourage residents into making short trips without the use of their car.
The Salvation Army, Southport Glass, The British Lawnmower Museum, Eckersley’s Blinds and AMS Plumbers Merchants, all based on Shakespeare Street, have submitted letters in opposition of the scheme.
What is the Liveable Neighbourhood Scheme?
The Liveable Neighbourhood Scheme is a project essentially designed to decrease traffic in the Town Centre and the surrounding area. If the scheme is passed it is likely that several streets in the defined area, almost certainly including Shakespeare Street will have vehicle access restricted.
Sustrans say: “The goal of this project is to work with people who live in, work in, or visit the area to create a design to make local changes to the streets that will create spaces to play and to chat with neighbours, while making walking and cycling safer for everyone. By making streets easier for people to walk, cycle and scoot we are helping everyone to stay safe and socially distance. This helps us to meet our health, wellbeing and climate aims.
“This will help connect people to local shops and services, benefiting them and businesses, and reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles. This is likely to involve restricting vehicle access at some locations, whilst still allowing people walking or cycling to benefit from direct access. Everyone will still be able to get to any address in the area in a car or other vehicle, but they may have to travel slightly further than before.”
What have businesses said?
In a response to the scheme, AMS Plumbers Merchants said: “Southport is a tourist town, with only 1 of the previous 3 park and rides still in operation. The recent closure of some local roads and removal of parking to allow for cycle lands had no consultation and has had a hugely damaging effect on a school, church and many local businesses.
“The timing of the consultation for this proposed project is particularly disappointing. With the current pandemic, so many businesses are temporarily closed and therefore unable to take part in this very important stage.”
Eckersley’s Blinds said: “In order to operate our businesses as we have been doing for over 30 years, we need access both sides of Shakespeare Street ”
The British Lawnmower Museum also opposed the scheme, saying: “We feel any restrictive measures to Shakespeare & Duke St would discourage out of town visitors with the effect creating a downturn in the economy & detriment to the area as a whole.”
The Salvation Army said that they felt unable to offer proper comment, as the pandemic has limited their communication with members of the public.
Their response read: “Because of the pandemic, we are currently under severe restrictions on public contact which makes it almost impossible to canvass proper comment on the project. As a church we are unable to hold meetings and many people do not have access to social media.
“It is essential that vehicular access to the complex can be maintained at all times.
“It is important to note that many of the shops and other establishments on Shakespeare Street are not just local shops but also provide services to Southport generally and will have the same concerns about ease of access.”
OTS also understands that several businesses were particularly unhappy that the consultation scheme asked for the views of schools several miles away before companies on Shakespeare Street itself had been contacted at all.
What happens now?
Sustrans will start a full review of all feedback received starting in January, with trial schemes to be decided from February to April. Sustrans will recommend a full trial in May 2021.