Traders in Chorley are locking horns with bosses at the town’s council over car parking spaces in the lead up to Christmas.
It comes after the authority has stalled work for the £10.7m Market Walk development following Marks & Spencer’s halt on commissioning new outlets.
Some 200 traders have signed a petition calling for Chorley’s Flat Iron car park to be reopened as they say the town’s streets are empty of shoppers at a crucial time of year.
But is not all traders who want to see the work scrapped, others think the development is vital for the future of the town.
Meanwhile, officials have opened up additional car parking bays across Chorley in order to replace the 235 spaces lost to the development work and to encourage visitors to the market town.
Trader John Brennand, who has organised the petition, said: “Developing on the Flat Iron car park has resulted in members of the public struggling to park near the town centre to shop, especially those with mobility issues, disabilities and with young families, babies and children.
“The alternative car parks are further away from the shops and when carrying shopping bags this has caused issues for the public, many people are now simply not coming into Chorley to shop.”
However not all traders want to throw out plans for the development to Market Walk.
Owner of Malcolm’s Musicland, Malcolm Allen is the chairman of Chorley’s Trader’s Alliance.
He said: “While the recent news of Marks & Spencer’s decision to review all of their planned store openings nationwide and including Chorley is a setback, I believe that town centre traders wish to see the overall scheme continue to be developed out to make out town fit for the future.”
The council has suspended work on the development while it reasseses its options, but remains determined to push ahead.
In the interlude, in an effort to alleviate the parking issue for traders, Chorley bosses have announced more free and cheaper parking in town.
Council leader Alistair Bradley said: “We all have an interest in Chorley town centre flourishing, and we will do everything we can to ensure that current traders are not affected detrimentally by investment and development works intended to make Chorley town centre fit for the 21st century.
“We’ve taken immediate action to address people’s concerns, we are meeting weekly with market traders, and I would urge any other town centre businesses who have any concerns to talk to us so we can see what we can do to alleviate any problems.”
Coun Bradley has also called on residents to support their local traders and shop in Chorley wherever they can.
Fears have also been raised for construction workers who could be out of work before Christmas.
However, John Wilson, managing director for Eric Wright Construction, said: “We have worked closely with the Council as their construction partner and continue to support them as they review options for Market Walk.
“The works undertaken so far have made significant improvements to the car parking provision and we are ready to re–mobilise once the council are ready to proceed with the remaining section of the development, which when complete will provide additional retail and leisure facilities for the local community.”
To date the council has spent £2.68m designing the Market Walk scheme, preparing the site and remodelling the Flat Iron car park.
The additional parking to replace the 235 spaces lost to the development work are located at:
· 84 spaces re-opened on the development site, off Union Street
· 39 spaces to be opened on Tuesday in Market Walk service yard 3, off Clifford Street
· 69 spaces at Hollinshead Street car park, which has been extended and opened to the public all week
· 25 spaces at Back Mount Street (adjacent to the Town Hall), which has been opened to the public all week
· 19 spaces on High Street
Large parts of the development site on the Flat Iron is now open for parking, one of the Market Walk service yards is open for Christmas shoppers and the trial park and ride has been extended to include Woodlands Conference Centre, on Southport Road, as well as Morrisons.
Coun Alistair Bradley said: “Feedback from traders has been that we need to create more parking spaces to make it easier for shoppers in the run up to Christmas so that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
There is also a park and ride service from Morrisons supermarket.
What the traders say
Jane Walsh, 57, works at the The Original Watch Stall in Chorley Market.
She said: “Everyone just wants the car park back to normal.
“People are struggling to park so you’ve got a lot of people saying I can’t stay, I only have an hour parking.”
Kay Barker, 54, owns stall Opulence by Kay in the indoor market.
She said: “All our takings are down. What I don’t understand is if you are going to turn a town upside down why not sign on the dotted line before you start all the work?
“This should be out busiest time of year.”
John Brennand has traded in the covered market for 47 years.
He said: “It was during the second stage of the development in October when our takings went down dramatically.
“People like convenient shopping, you don’t want to be walking up a hill to a car park carrying your shopping if you’re a mother or an older person.
Chris Ball, 61, owns a fruit and veg stall G.W. & C.G Ball which has been in his family for 60 years.
He says he has seen a 50 per cent drop in trade since October.
“If trade doesn’t pick up by Christmas I’m going to have to shut down,” he said.
“I’m not the only one. Hopefully, if they revert the Flat Iron and make more parking it will make a difference.”
Linda Jackson, 61, bought Sweet Aunt Sally’s sweet shop 12 months ago.
She said: “I’m relatively new to this and I’ve seen a decline. Since this upheaval on the Flat Iron you might as well not come in its so quiet.”
Will Foran owns hairdressers Foran and Blake in Market Walk. He opened Foran and Blake Barbers because TK Maxx and M&S were coming to town.
“It’s been horrendous,” he said. “They don’t think about the disabled people or the elderly people.”
“They say you’ve got parking in Friday Street but if someone’s just had their hair done they don’t want to be walking all that way.
“I employ 25 staff and even the team feel it.
“Customers say they can’t get parking, sorry, they have to cancel their appointments.”