Louth businesses worry council parking scheme will be ‘death knell’

Traders in Louth Town Centre are furious that the county council is imposing their new parking regime without consulting them.
Helen Grant H&J Arts and crafts EMN-220321-101102001Helen Grant H&J Arts and crafts EMN-220321-101102001
Helen Grant H&J Arts and crafts EMN-220321-101102001

Louth Town Councillor and District Councillor Andrew Leonard has warned that any fear this will be the death knell of their small independent shops, which are still trying to get back on their feet after the Covid lockdowns.

As reported previously, Lincolnshire County Council launched a consultation in March 2021 to ask for residents’ views on eight schemes in towns across the county, including in Louth and Mablethorpe.

The proposals emerged thanks to the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund, which has awarded £799,900 to give Lincolnshire people more opportunities to choose walking and cycling for their day-to-day journeys.

Meg Johnson of Potty about Pets EMN-220321-101120001Meg Johnson of Potty about Pets EMN-220321-101120001
Meg Johnson of Potty about Pets EMN-220321-101120001

The experimental traffic orders came into effect yesterday (Tuesday) and has seen the closure of Cornmarket and Butcher Lane to motor vehicles and the removal of all on-street parking, to apply on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, Pay and Display parking in Market Place replaced by dis bled parking to apply on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, existing parking bays from 19 to 33 Mercer Row removed to accommodate a wider area for pedestrian use and a similar widening of the footway via planters/barriers on Eastgate.

But several businesses have spoken out that these new restrictions will make it much harder for people to come and shop in the town centre, with one business owner saying that it could be the “nail in the coffin” for their business, while others have slammed the council for “blind-siding” them.

District and town councillor Andrew Leonard has been speaking to many of the business owners and said they feel it is now time to take a stand, or else Louth’s reputation for independent shops and being disabled and old people-friendly will disappear as there would be no parking provision for the disabled on market days.

Marie Preston from Rio Retro has been building up her business for six years and, despite being a member of Louth Independent Traders, has said that she has had no contact from the county council.

Martine Preston EMN-220321-101130001Martine Preston EMN-220321-101130001
Martine Preston EMN-220321-101130001

She also needs to be able to park so she can take stock into her business.

“I have no alternative, I have to pull up on Mercer Row and I cannot use a loading bay as that is reserved for commercial vehicles only and I don’t want a ticket,” she said.

“I don’t think the council knows what goes into running a business, its not just about the hours we are open, there is a lot that needs doing on the premises to make sure it runs smoothly.

“There has never been a massive problem down here, so why are they tampering with it? If my business is forced to close I will hold the county council responsible.”

Louth town centre. (Photo: John Aron) EMN-211119-112659001Louth town centre. (Photo: John Aron) EMN-211119-112659001
Louth town centre. (Photo: John Aron) EMN-211119-112659001

Covid failed to close down Potty About Pets, located just down the street from Rio Retro on Mercer Row, but the Johnson family, who run the business, are concerned that the scheme could be the “final death knell” for them.

They argue that customers need to be able to park outside or nearby their business as it is impossible for them to carry their purchases any distance.

“Its the nail in the coffin for our business,” the family admits, “We are going backwards not forwards. We have put all our family money into Potty About Pets and now we face financial ruin if people can’t park near us.”

Helen Grant, who runs H & J Arts and Crafts, is equally as furious about the situation. Her shop is one of only two crafting shops left in the whole of Lincolnshire.

Like Rio Retro, she attracts customers from all over the country and they need to be able to load up their purchases, as large paintings are not easily carried to car parks.

She has television demonstrators give very popular lessons at the shop and they have equipment which needs to be loaded and unloaded. Helen noted: “We have been completely blindsided by this. We have shop local, save the High Street campaigns and then they now want to do this. It’s ridiculous.”

Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transport at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “When we launched this consultation last year, we were clear that only those schemes with public support would get the go ahead. And, in Louth, 64 percent of consultation responses were positive towards our ‘active town centre’ proposals, while 27 percent weren’t.

“We’ve also listened to what residents have told us and made amendments to the scheme based on their feedback.

“It’s important to remember that this is an experimental trial that will last up to 18 months. During that time, we’ll continue taking feedback on-board about whether to make these changes permanent when funding becomes available. And if they don’t work for Louth, we can take them out again easily.”

Traders are now asking for public support for the coming “Save Our Shops” campaign, and to look out for shops which are supporting the town’s independent businesses.