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York businesses call for Lendal Bridge closure u-turn
CITY-CENTRE traders want York’s Lendal Bridge traffic trial to be abandoned immediately, as some businesses fear they are on the brink of closure.
York Retail Forum said falling trade meant many small businesses had laid workers off since the bridge was closed to cars, vans, lorries and motorbikes for six-and-a-half hours a day.
The City of York Council experiment, which began in August, will run until February when its impact and future will be considered.
Minutes of the forum’s October meeting – seen by The Press – show 14 of 18 retailers present supported a proposal to ask the council to fully reopen the bridge with immediate effect, having assessed trading between July and September.
Two voted against and two abstained. The forum, which has about 80 members, said:
• Parliament Street’s September footfall dropped 12 per cent year-on-year, and was almost 30 per cent down on September 2011, with decreasing trade “widely reported”
• September sales for many smaller independent traders fell by up to 28 per cent, forcing them to cut staff
• Traders believe the bridge trial is “the major cause” of falling business, with optimism replaced by “challenging times”.
The minutes said: “At the extreme end of this spectrum are retailers worried that the direct consequence of closing Lendal Bridge could see them closing for business very soon.”
They said “intermittent data” meant the council could not provide Coney Street footfall figures since the trial started.
The council has said the closure would reduce pollution and improve bus times. Its figures show York’s average year-on-year footfall fell 3.9 per cent in September – 3.3 per cent worse than the UK average – although this was a 1.9 per cent improvement on March and June and 0.8 per cent better than August.
Forum chairman Frank Wood said: “Retailers were just starting to see increased trading and a recovering economy before the trial and were optimistic going towards Christmas, so what was said at the meeting was extremely disappointing and worrying.
“It’s unclear whether the closure is the only reason for reduced footfall and turnover, but nobody seemed to want this trial and retailers believe it has not helped. We cannot understand the reasons for closing an integral arterial road – people are not being welcomed to the city, they are being frightened away by high costs and inaccessibility.”
A council spokeswoman said September was “a difficult month nationally”, but the authority wanted to promote the city centre as “a diverse, unique shopping offer”.
She said: “Using one city-centre camera as an indicator for an entire city’s worth of footfall is not an accurate reflection.
“The council recently announced its intention to invest in footfall cameras at key points across the city-centre to gain a greater understanding of resident and visitor use and movement around the city, to inform future initiatives and investment decisions.”
She said all consultations and feedback would be considered when a decision on the trial is made in February.
Businesses interested in becoming involved with the forum should email email@example.com
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