‘It’s a nightmare – and it is putting my business at risk’
Meg Johnson, who owns Potty About Pets in Mercer Row, has become increasingly reliant on sending out deliveries during the pandemic, with many of her older and more vulnerable customers expressing a wish for deliveries to continue rather than having to visit the town centre and visit the pet shop.
And, while the popular changes in the Cornmarket may benefit businesses such as cafes and pubs, Megan says it has reduced the number of free parking spaces near her shop for customers to quickly pop in to her shop to pick up goods, and it also makes it difficult for her to park up her car to load it for deliveries.
This brings us on to her second problem - the parking enforcement officers.
While there is a loading bay a few doors down from her shop, it is often occupied by large delivery trucks or lorries delivering white goods for neighbouring businesses, meaning that on occasion, Megan has had no choice but to park directly outside her shop for a couple of minutes while loading heavy deliveries – sometimes up to 200 kilograms of goods – which cannot easily be carried across the town centre to another parking bay.
However, there are yellow lines and kerb markings directly outside her shop, and despite claiming that large vehicles have always been able to get past her car – including buses and emergency service vehicles – Megan’s request for a discretionary permit to briefly park outside her business for loading has been rejected by Lincolnshire County Council.
Furthermore, Megan says that some – but not all – traffic wardens will take issue with her even when she is parked in an official loading bay, as she uses her Toyota Yaris for deliveries rather than a large commercial delivery vehicle.
Despite her vehicle having business signage and clearly being used for loading and deliveries, Megan says there is still an inconsistent approach to parking.
Megan said the situation has been a ‘nightmare’, adding that unless a discretionary permit or similar resolution can be sorted out, her business will be jeopardised.
She said: “During the first lockdown when the traffic wardens weren’t working, home deliveries were 95 per cent of our business. We have not blocked one single vehicle from getting past, including buses and fire engines.
“Times have moved on so much, and the pandemic has really fast-forwarded us five or ten years in terms of shopping online and home deliveries.
“Our shop runs completely differently now. But we can’t be carrying 200 kilos of sacks right to the bottom of Mercer Row, or to Upgate. It is impossible.”
Megan continued: “We’re trying to do our job and to help the people of Louth by providing a delivery service, but all the extra stress of not being able to that – because of the outside influences – is actually making me ill.
“If something cannot be done, it will close my pet shop down, especially if we are given parking fines every time we try and load our deliveries.
“It has been a nightmare, and to be honest we now dread every time we go out to get the car to do one of our deliveries.
“If the loading bay is full, what are we supposed to do? Do we circle round town for an hour or so until it’s free?
“And then, you’re telling people they have got a rough time slot for their deliveries...
“We are a proper little family business – me, mum and dad – but we just can’t keep going on the way we are.”
Following enquiries from the Louth Leader, a spokesman for the Highways Department at Lincolnshire County Council said: “Directly outside the pet shop, there’s no waiting and no loading/unloading allowed at any time.
“Because of the narrowness of the road here, we need to ensure it’s clear and safe for people and vehicles to pass (including emergency vehicles).
“Unfortunately we couldn’t issue any sort of permit for loading/unloading here because of how narrow the road is it would not be safe.
“There is a loading bay slightly further up the road, and on the other side of that loading bay the restrictions change and loading/unloading is also allowed on the double yellow lines there before 10am and after 4pm (signage on the roadside indicates this).
“There is then another, larger loading bay further along Mercer Row, as well as parking bays both on Mercer Row and on Upgate near the shop too.
“I appreciate that the closure of Cornmarket between 10am and 5pm has reduced the amount available parking, but it has been put in place to provide more outdoor space, supporting local businesses, and has been widely welcomed by businesses and residents.
“Due to the historic nature of Louth, the town centre does have some very narrow streets.
“If any business is unsure about the traffic restrictions near their premises, they can get in touch with parking services at the council who would be happy to explain them so they can better understand where it is safe and legal to park, load and unload nearby.
“If a driver is with their vehicle parked illegally, a warden would always ask them to move on and explain the reason why before issuing a ticket.”