Traders win review of ‘inept’ town centre pedestrian plan

Sue Luck, owner of M Saltmarsh, the art materials shop in Monson Road, and Clare Waller, who runs the next door hardware shop, Jeremy’s Home Store, presented the petition at last week’s Full Council meeting.

Some 1,130 people signed the petition to protest about the effects the changes to the town centre will have on trade.

Phase 2 of the Public Realm Improvement plan is aimed to make the town centre more pedestrian-friendly, but as reported in the Times in July retailers fear the changes will lose them passing trade in Monson Road and put an end to their businesses.

The scheme, which Tory Cllr Julian Stanyer told Conservative colleagues at last week’s Full Council meeting ‘was the most inept project we have seen for some time’, was given final approval by the Cabinet in April last year.

Since then, the Council has held business breakfast briefings held for traders on September 6 and November 8, 2018, and put on an exhibition in Royal Victoria Place on September 22, 2018.

Despite this, Ms Luck, whose store has been trading in the town since 1835 and is England’s oldest high street art shop, told councillors there had been a lack of consultation with businesses and ‘unsustainable’ losses of trade.

She told councillors: “We feel the theme was ill-thought out from the beginning and there was no consultation with local businesses.

“We want an inquiry now. Not in a few months, but now because the ongoing effect on our businesses is detrimental.”

Councillors spent an hour discussing how to help traders affected by the Public Realm Improvement plans, and following a vote, overwhelmingly agreed to undertake a review of ‘the true impact’ of the scheme while ‘works continue’.

After the meeting, Clare Waller said they hope the Council ‘will listen and take on board what the people and businesses of Tunbridge Wells are saying’. 

She added: “We all want the same thing – an amazing town.”

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