Cafe culture hopes for Market Drayton as councillors discuss closing main shopping street to cars
A town's main shopping street could be closed to traffic in the daytime to encourage a 'cafe culture' and "invigorate" its economy.
Cheshire Street in Market Drayton could be shut using a barrier, with Market Drayton Town Council consulting on the possibility.
Councillors were discussing how to best use a £5,000 sum that has been given to the town by Shropshire Council, through its Market Town Support Fund which is intended to help the county's towns recover both from the coronavirus crisis and flooding (as Market Drayton was not hit by floods, it received a smaller sum of money than other towns).
Mayor Roy Aldcroft told the meeting that the money was "to support initiatives specifically to allow safe reopening, social distancing and invigorating the town economy".
"The next bit is a little bit controversial – specifically to erect a barrier on Cheshire Street to allow free and safe movement of visitors within the town, and promote using the open space for retail, cafes and restaurants, enabling the freedom to spill out onto the pavement as some already are.
"Obviously there would have to be various discussions. I think it's a good idea for the businesses but it's like Marmite. Some businesses will like it and take full advantage of it, others will not like it initially until they get used to it.
"We do it on a Wednesday [market day] and we do it during the Christmas period."
Disabled people and emergency workers could be provided with a code to lower the barrier.
'We're not going to please everybody'
Councillor Mark Whittle said he had seen similar measures implemented elsewhere and said it would be "a real boost to the local economy".
Cllr Jon Gough said that a code system for lowering the barrier could easily be abused by people sharing the code.
Deputy mayor Roger Smith said that he had received "numerous complaints" in recent weeks when parking spaces on Cheshire Street were temporarily removed to make social distancing easier for pedestrians.
He said: "As you've said, it's a Marmite situation, we're not going to please everybody – but it's going to be a very very difficult one." He abstained in the vote.
The councillors agreed "in principle" to accept the county council's money for the barrier, though they agreed that the townspeople should be consulted before any changes are made.
Following the meeting, Cllr Aldcroft said: "It has long been mooted that a cafe culture as well as increased income and greater footfall could be created by closing Cheshire Street for a period each day.
"The street could be closed off before 11am and reopening at 4pm, giving some time for the cafes, and restaurants to spread out, without denying deliveries and the disabled access to shops and pharmacies.
"It should make Cheshire Street much more pleasant and encourage heavy traffic to make use of the ring road."
Cllr Mike Smith said: "I think there will be mixed views. Some are thinking it will kill Cheshire Street as only cafes that want to have outside dining would benefit.
"Other shops could lose a lot of trade. The disabled would also feel left out again, although perhaps the assessed times it could remain open could provide windows that the disabled and deliveries could access the street."
Recordings of the council's meetings can be heard through the council website, accessed via the agendas. Learn more at marketdrayton.gov.uk. Contact the town clerk on 01630 653364.