17th August 2017
Mr B Gillis
Bridport Town Counci
Dear Bob and Members of the Bridport Town Council
Further to the launch of the Bridport Town Centre Consultation on August 7th 2017, and your direct consultation with the Chamber on this topic, this letter sets out the formal response of Bridport Business Chamber and its 58 member companies.
An overwhelming majority of our membership are not in favour of a trial closure of South Street and over a third of our member businesses have expressed concern over the questionnaire and consultation process.
However, the Chamber supports the proposal for a 20mph speed limit in the Bridport town centre area, and have suggestions for alternative potential improvements for town centre traffic.
In particular, the Chamber would like to make the following points regarding the consultation and decision-making process:
- Meaningful consultation with businesses in Bridport has been lacking; Chamber members appreciated the opportunity to put questions to the Town Clerk at their meeting in May, however it has been frustrating that our feedback regarding the questionnaire has not been listened to. As town centre businesses are the most likely to be negatively affected by the trial closure – logistically and financially – we feel the consultation process should have included more in-depth discussions with these businesses, including a separate, business focussed questionnaire.
- How will the questionnaire responses be sorted and weighted? In particular, who will decide (and by what process?) which questionnaires are valid, and will business and local responses hold more weight than responses from visitors and those outside the area?
- Is Question One “leading”? Is “The quality of South Street’s environment” a genuine local issue? By including it in the this list the Town Council could appear to be suggesting to respondents that this is an issue, and one which could be remedied by the potential partial closure.
- How will the responses be analysed, and by whom? Which questions will count toward the Town Council decision regarding the trial closure? This is not clear from the questionnaire; of the four main questions, only questions two and three are quantitative, the remaining two are open to interpretation. For instance, issues listed in question one include “Access for pedestrians and cyclists” and “Access to town centre shops and businesses”, yet a tick against either of these issues could be taken as support for South Street staying open. Similarly, some respondents may consider that vehicular access to South Street improves the flow of traffic in the town and positively contributes to the quality of South Street’s environment.
Regarding the potential trial itself, the Chamber would like to make the following points:
- Safety concerns regarding alternative routes through the town centre – If the trial goes ahead the proposal is that traffic travelling north on South Street will be diverted via Gundry Lane and St Michael’s Lane. The Chamber feels Gundry Lane is not fit for purpose to accommodate additional traffic, vehicular access at the top of the lane is hindered by parked cars, the pavement is narrow and businesses on the route include at least three using large vehicles. As you will be aware, the lane is a main pedestrian route into town from Skilling, has Wonderland preschool situated thereon (with already tricky access to and from it’s car park) and is a route for school children walking to various sites around town. Similarly, Victoria Grove to the north is already extremely busy with traffic and is a main route for pedestrians and cars travelling to St Catherine’s, Colfox and Bridport Primary schools.
- Volume of traffic – a Chamber member recently recorded over 3000 cars using South Street over the course of one day. With the St Michael’s Trading Estate development also going ahead the potential increase in the volume of traffic on Gundry Lane is likely to be high.
- Concern for the wider community – Skilling is also likely to suffer a significant increase in traffic, on roads which are already busy and hazardous for local families.
- Potential loss of independent businesses and local jobs if trial/permanent closure reduces business revenue – the independent businesses located in the town centre will not be able to sustain a drop in revenue, many employ local people however these jobs will be at risk if businesses are forced to downsize or, at worst, close leaving the way open for more affluent chain and national businesses.
- Logistics concerns regarding trial closure – the consultation questionnaire has stated access for deliveries, residents and emergency services will continue, how will this be facilitated? Will the traffic lights at the Town Hall remain in place to enable delivery drivers, residents and emergency vehicles to turn into South Street? Will any restrictions be in place? South Street businesses rely on regular deliveries to replenish their stock and fulfil customer requirements, if these are not able to continue these businesses will be at risk.
- Safety concerns regarding South Street – the proposal is, as above, that South Street will not be fully pedestrianised. This in itself poses a safety issue for people using the street as the expectation is that the street will be vehicle free.
- Cost concerns – the Chamber questions whether spending up to £50,000 of public money for a 12 week trial represents value for money, and would like to know the subsequent cost to re-open South Street in the event that the trial is found to be unsuccessful, or alternatively the cost to make the closure of South Street permanent if the trial is successful.
- “Success” of trial referred to in launch report– if the trial is approved and goes ahead, by what parameters will it’s ‘success’ be measured, by whom will these measures of success be set? How will the appropriate measurement data be collected, who will have input to this measurement and by whom will the data be analysed? Following measurement and analysis, who will consider this data in order to make a decision over whether the trial should continue to permanence or whether South Street should revert to it’s present access? For that matter, will the road re-open after the 12 week trial while the data is analysed?
- Compensation for businesses – if the trial goes ahead and negatively affects the revenue of businesses in the town centre what compensation levels will be in place to mitigate this situation?
Bridport Business Chamber would like to record support for the proposed 20 mph limit in the town centre; we feel this is a sensible and appropriate measure to improve the safety of the town centre environment with little cost impact.
As we have outlined above, the Chamber feels there are strong arguments against going ahead with a trial closure of South Street, and this stance reflects the overwhelming majority of our 58 members.
It is the opinion of the Chamber, also partly based on consumer feedback to Chamber businesses based in the town centre, that improvements to car parking, town centre signage, park and ride facilities and public transport would be of greater benefit to residents, businesses and visitors alike. To this end, we would be pleased to support projects facilitating these alternative town centre improvement measures and would consider this a better use of the £50,000 budget earmarked for the potential trial closure.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Chamber.