Retailers fear town centre improvements will put businesses at risk of closure
10th July 2019
TRADERS believe the council’s development of Tunbridge Wells town centre could put an end to their businesses.
Shops along Monson Road say plans to restrict traffic in the area will reduce trade and could see them close.
This week, the top of town has been closed at the traffic light crossroads with Calverley Road and Crescent Road so the council can complete its £1.3million Public Realm plans, which the council say will increase footfall and improve the look of the area.
The council has asked traders to be patient as the works continue to convert the area outside the town hall and along Monson Road into a semi-pedestrianised street, which will see cars banned during the day.
The Borough Council [TWBC] say the work is necessary to improve the look of the town centre and make it a safer and more pleasant place for pedestrians.
They also claim the improvements will create a ‘sense of a public square’ for use on civic occasions like Remembrance Sunday.
However, traders on Monson Road argue the council’s Public Realm plans will lead to a downturn in business.
Sue Luck, who represents a group of shop owners along Monson Road and is the current owner of M. Saltmarsh Artists’ Materials, claims the changes will ‘finish the business’.
She said: “The big issue is passing trade. When people drive past they see us. We get a lot of passing trade. I know people are not meant to park on the single yellow lines, but they do.
“People stop and run into the dry cleaners or into the spectacles shop..”
She added that when Monson Road was closed earlier this year due to the first stage of the Public Realm works, takings at the art supplies store, which has been trading in the town since 1835 and is England’s oldest high street art’s shop fell by 21 per cent.
“That is what the effect will be if this goes ahead,” claimed Ms Luck. “If this restriction comes into force, it will finish the business. As soon as my lease has expired there will be no more Saltmarsh after 185 years of trading.”
She added that the majority of traders along the road are opposed to the plans and she will be representing them at the next Full Council meeting on July 17, where she will appeal to the council to put the development on hold.
“I’m going to ask that the restrictions are put on hold. I just don’t know what they are trying to achieve. It is just awful,” she said.
The council says they are aware of the concerns from local traders but asks them to be patient, insisting the completed project will actually increase footfall to that part of town.
They added that the traffic restriction will impact on the flow of traffic on Monson Road but vehicles will still be able to go on to the road to drop off or load as they do now.
Councillor Dr Ronen Basu, cabinet member for sustainability at TWBC, said: “Council staff have been liaising with the businesses in the Monson Road and Mount Pleasant area of town during the public realm project works with the aim of keeping them informed about what is happening.
“I understand the ongoing work has caused some frustration however the scheme is designed to improve the look and feel of the area, and by reducing traffic and being more pedestrian friendly, improve footfall.”