Penwortham retailers fear Christmas shopping slump after on-street parking is suspended

Retailers on a street in Penwortham are warning that the removal of parking spaces outside their businesses could wreck what they were hoping would be a bumper Christmas trading period.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 6:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 6:48 pm

Shopkeepers on Priory Lane in the town say they were shocked to learn that the on-street parking bays would be taken out of use until just a week before the big day.

The temporary change is as a result of work being carried out by Lancashire County Council to create a so-called “cycle superhighway” - a segregated cycle lane on the A59 Liverpool Road between Penwortham and the outskirts of Preston city centre.

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Traders on Priory Lane in Penwortham are unhappy that cones have replaced cars outside their businesses (image: Dan Martino)

The works will come in two phases - having begun this week - and will include the temporary closure of Kingsway from some time after 2nd November until 17th December.

A signed diversion will take traffic down the narrow Priory Lane, with the one-hour kerbside parking in front of the shops being removed in order to avoid creating a bottleneck with the extra vehicles likely to be using the route.

Although Kingsway has not yet closed, it has been limited to left turns in and out - meaning that the associated parking restrictions on Priory Lane have already come into force.

Carolyn Cooper, who has operated MacMillans gift shop and café from its current location on Priory Lane for almost three decades, says that the parking ban has come as a bitter blow to businesses just getting back on their feet after the pandemic and a "lost" Christmas last year.

Short-stay parking on Priory Lane has been suspended while works are undertaken on nearby Liverpool Road and Kingsway to install a new segregated cycle lane

“There is a lot more confidence now - we have noticed it over the last two months. Things are turning around and people are coming back - and it's been almost [like] pre-pandemic.

“We are all set up for what we thought was going to be a good Christmas - and I'm very sceptical now that it will be.

“I’m not objecting to the cycle lane at all. But why couldn't this have been done in January or February? Businesses are quieter then - we’d have still been worried about the effect it would have on trade, but I understand that, for things to progress, sometimes unpopular things have to happen.

“But to do this now until a week before Christmas could be devastating for us.”

Traders on Priory Lane in Penwortham are hoping that their shops will not be as empty as the street outside during the run-up to Christmas

Carolyn recalls being burned by a similar situation about eight years ago - and the instant catastrophic impact that it had on trade.

“I arrived for work one morning and there were a load of bollards in the spaces outside, with no explanation. After half a day, I had to close and send staff home - I was staggered at how taking away parking spots outside your business could have such an immediate effect.

“I think it was a combination of people not wanting to walk anywhere - but, most importantly, I think people also thought we were closed,” Carolyn said.

Wendy Simpson, who opened Cutting Crew and Co hairdressers on the Priory Lane parade in 2019, is hopeful that her loyal clientèle will continue to support her - but she is concerned that the sudden, if temporary, disappearance of the parking spaces outside her door will cause difficulties for disabled and elderly customers.

Priory Lane business owners Carolyn Cooper (left) and Wendy Simpson wish that Lancashire County Council had put its roadworks on hold until after Christmas

"It's not an option for those people to park [somewhere else] and walk. And with it being winter, it's cold and wet - and so not many people at all really walk in the same way as they might during the summer.

"Basically, the county council couldn't have picked two worse months to do this," Wendy added.

The Post understands that the cones put in place on Sunday afternoon to warn of the current restrictions are so far being ignored by many motorists - who are simply parking in between them in defiance of the changes.

Carolyn says that she has not witnessed any traffic problems as a result - and claims that that proves the restrictions are “unnecessary”.

Cliff Bashforth, a style consultant whose Colour Me Beautiful business is based on Priory Lane, described the parking prohibition as “madness”.

“We were given grants to support us [during the pandemic] - and now they’re pulling the rug from underneath us.

“We’ve successfully navigated Covid and now have a chance to recoup some money during the busiest trading time in the run-up to Christmas,” Cliff explained.

Cllr James Flannery, chair of a South Ribble Borough Council group set up to provide support to businesses during and after the pandemic, said that it was “not acceptable” for Lancashire County Council to introduce the changes “without any reasonable notice”.

"It's important that we listen to our local businesses post-Covid-19 and support them as much as we possibly can - especially as this is a key period leading up to Christmas.

“We, as a council [South Ribble], value local small and medium-sized enterprises, as they are a valued part of our community. We will continue to work with them to resolve this issue and support them moving forward."

The £450,000 cycle superhighway scheme previously proved controversial after it was initially proposed to make a stretch of Kingsway a one-way street - so that traffic could only exit onto the main A59 and not enter from it, in order to better protect bike-riders. That plan was reversed after it caused uproar amongst locals.

A segregated cycle lane was installed on Liverpool Road earlier this year, close to its junction with Cop Lane, near the new Tesco. The current works will lead to the creation of an uninterrupted route for cyclists by connecting that lane with a section already in place across Penwortham Bridge.

Carolyn says that she is not critical of the scheme itself, but rather the way it has been implemented - as well as what she says is a lack of consultation with retailers like her. She says she learned of the plans after press articles appeared on 8th October.

“The first official notification I had was by letter on 11th October, dated 8th October. The articles went out before we got notification to tell us what was happening - we had no prior knowledge of it whatsoever.

“I just cannot get beyond the fact that there was no consultation with us. I’d like to think that if we had said to them that we understood they had to do the work, but [had] asked for it to be done after Christmas, [that they would have listened].

“We’re all quite popular, thriving businesses on Priory Lane. After the pandemic, we are still here, clawing our way back - and the county council did this to us. I can’t believe they have done what they have done.”

WHAT THE COUNTY COUNCIL SAYS

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways, Charlie Edwards, said that the decision to carry out work during the pre-Christmas period was not “taken lightly”.

"It is necessary as we are working to [the] tight timescales of the Department for Transport funding to deliver this important scheme to improve connections between Penwortham and Preston.

"However, taking on board the feedback from the consultation over the summer on the scheme, the initial plans to make a permanent change to Kingsway have been scrapped and we are making every effort to complete the works as soon as possible.

“We plan to open the road fully before the Christmas period by 17th December at the latest, which will minimise disruption for residents and local businesses. The suspension of the parking outside the shops on Priory Lane was based on the responses we received to our original consultation, which highlighted the pinch-points and potential safety issues which would be created by increased traffic flow heading north along Priory Lane.

“The temporary loss of approximately 10 short stay parking spaces is not anticipated to have a notable impact on the surrounding roads and the recently-opened Tesco car park offers ample opportunity for alternative parking less than 200m away.

“Again I'd like to apologise in advance for any disruption or inconvenience these works may cause and hope that you will please bear with us as we create this dedicated walking and cycling route which will benefit residents for many years to come," County Cllr Edwards appealed.

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