Public meeting called to discuss controversial Louth Active Travel

Angry councillors “frustrated” by the response to concerns around a new traffic scheme in Louth have called a public meeting for residents and businesses to air their grievances.
Mercer Row, LouthMercer Row, Louth
Mercer Row, Louth

East Lindsey District and Louth Town councillors Jill Makinson-Sanders, Andrew Leonard and George Horton said there had been a failure by Lincolnshire County Council to engage with the town over the plans.

The Louth Active Travel Scheme looks to improve pedestrian and cycling access to the town by restricting traffic along Mercer Row to create a larger pedestrianised area feeding into the Cornmarket.

It began in March following what LCC said was a near year long consultation. However many dispute the level of knowledge and engagement around the plans by those on the ground.

Meg Johnson of Potty about PetsMeg Johnson of Potty about Pets
Meg Johnson of Potty about Pets

Businesses say the changes are having a detrimental effect on them, particularly as they look to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and tackle the cost of living crisis.

The local councillors said more businesses are under threat of closure and have calculated a £1.2m loss of trade in the town centre annually if the plans continue.

In response, they have organised a public meeting at the Royal British Legion on Wednesday (August 10), starting at 7pm, with invites to be sent to Lincolnshire County Council.

They said they had been contacted by hundreds of residents with many unable to manage walking from a car park to the bank.

They include Councillor Horton who has a hip injury, which impairs walking and qualifies him for a blue badge.

Councillor Leonard said the council had “erroneously” said the scheme was supported, adding that supporters such as the Louth Independent Traders group did not represent “many businesses”

A new petition calling for LCC to withdraw the plans and return to the drawing board has received more than 600 signatures.

Meg Johnson runs Potty About Pets, a family business on Mercer Row, and said that since the scheme was implemented, she is currently losing around £100 per day.

She said: “It’s pretty rubbish at the moment, this end of town is like a ghost town and so many people are saying it,” she said.

"I know a lot of people are watching the pennies at the moment, but people still need to buy pet food and they say how bad the lack of parking is.”

Councillors also criticised the aesthetic of the planters during the winter, and Coun Makinson-Sanders, carried out a recent survey where she reported around a quarter of the planters had dead flowers in.

She suggested the Cornmarket should be returned to its former layout, particularly during the colder winter months, questioning how many would cycle in from the surrounding villages during that time.

“The councillors and their officers at Lincoln appear to have failed to grasp what makes a market town work,” she said.

East Lindsey District Council has now also called for an urgent review of the issues associated with the Mercer Row scheme.

A spokesman said: “After receiving positive feedback on the temporary closure of the Cornmarket, which enabled businesses to create outdoor seating in response to the pandemic in Spring/Summer 2021, we supported the proposed pilot initiative.

“We appreciated the scheme was temporary and experimental to allow for changes in response to local feedback.

“There are concerns about the detrimental impact this is having on Louth’s reputation as an accessible and bustling market town, as well as the management and communication of the initiative.

“We urge Lincolnshire County Council to focus its resource, in the remaining trial period, to develop the Cornmarket area, allowing more improvements to the street furniture and to make better use of the space to benefit both residents and visitors.

“It is right that Councils should explore new initiatives and opportunities, but they should also listen, be pragmatic, and amend plans when it is clear that a change of direction is required.”

Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for highways Councillor Richard Davies said he had not yet received an invite and was surprised to hear about it.

He said he would not be able to attend on the date provided.

However, he said: “we remain open to all forms of comment, suggestions and feedback surrounding the Louth Active Travel Scheme so I am always happy to listen to residents about how they feel this drive toward a sustainable future for one of the jewels of our county is going.

“Once we have the parklets installed, given them time to become established and people have had plenty of chance to use them, we will be holding a meeting of our own to continue our assessment of the scheme and how it should move forward.

“As always, this remains a trial scheme which can be adapted and tuned accordingly in line with the needs of the community.”