Louth's independent traders chairman praises Active Travel Scheme

Despite fierce criticism from Louth’s independent businesses, the town’s independent traders’ chairman says it’s what the area needs to “build a strong future”.

Mercer Row, Louth
Mercer Row, Louth

Lincolnshire County Council’s 18-month trial scheme for the town has included the removal of on-street parking on Mercer Row, with new seating units installed in its place, and the widening of pedestrian footways in a bid to make walking and cycling easier.

Many independent businesses in Louth’s town centre are worried that the new Active Travel Scheme proposed for Louth would be the ruin of their businesses if customers cannot park near their stores.

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Chairman of the Louth Independent Traders, Gary Denniss, has said it’s what the area needs to build a strong future: "I think EATF will bring to Louth a much more pleasant shopping experience for customers and as a town we have to move forward, we cannot stand still.

“With the vast amount of independent retailers in Louth, it’s this that we do – we change and react to what is needed at the time.

“We have all just been through a very difficult period and now is the time to make some changes to encourage people to use their local towns. We want to make it the very best experience for them that we can.

“Having spoken with members of the public and traders, it’s clear that most of them think that the EATF is a great idea. Louth was not designed for the amount of cars we currently see on our streets and the town is well blessed with car parks and some of the cheapest parking in the country, some of it is even free.

“Most car parks are within a five-minute walk of the town centre. We have disabled parking in the centre of town on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays so I think we have covered all the bases.

“When we speak to people about the cafe culture in the Cornmarket what we hear back is that they love it. And it is a great area to meet up with family and friends in a safe environment, it’s especially good for people who have children with them.

“In my opinion, the EATF can only be seen as a positive for our town and businesses alike.”

However, this is not the opinion of many local businesses in the town, with numerous businesses concerned that the scheme will be the ‘death knell’ for their stores.

Mr Andrew Leonard, an East Lindsey District and Louth Town Councillor, has said that the traders were not properly consulted in the centre of town about the scheme, and that he has been “inundated with public complaints” and that making a decision on the scheme over the 18 month trial period will be too late for the affected businesses:

"If we have this level of damage now, it will be irreversible by the end of the trial period.

"By removing on street parking from Mercer Row, the disabled are disadvantaged, as are all the businesses - many of whom rely on customers quickly loading their cars with butchery, pet food and supplies etc.

"The businesses on Mercer Row have seen takings down by at least 33 percent - they won’t be able to sustain that level for long.”

Mr Leonard also accused the town and district councillors supporting the scheme of “trashing our beautiful town on a joy trip” and “trying to fix something after all the problems of Covid, that wasn’t even broken”.

“Further more I see we can now expect some hideous benches and planting to be put on Mercer Row,” he added, “I suppose it will give a grandstand view of the boy racers as they go through the town in the evening. Better to have spent the money on potholes around the town.”

Fellow town and district councillor George Horton has backed up Mr Leonard's criticisms of the scheme:

"I have never had so much public reaction to what has happened to the centre of Louth since the siting of the Meridian Centre in 2007 or the Livestock Market debacle in 2017.“As a councillor, I wrote to Coun Richard Davies of the comments, and his response was get in touch with your LCC Councillor.“He like Andrew and myself are elected members of our council’s, put there by the public to represent them on their various views.“Decisions must be made now, not in 18 months time, when business have closed or staff have been made redundant to save costs.“It takes a good man or woman to stand up and say” ok” we got it wrong!”