Car ban plan for Shropshire town's shopping street dropped

A town council has dropped controversial plans to pedestrianise its main shopping street after councillors said it would "kill off" small businesses.

Cheshire Street
Cheshire Street

Market Drayton Town Council was given £5,000 by Shropshire Council through its Covid-19 Small Market Towns Fund, and had proposed to use it to put barriers up on Cheshire Street in the daytime to promote a 'cafe culture' and give a boost to the town's traders.

Cheshire Street is Market Drayton's main shopping centre with a number of eateries, coffee shops, banks and independent shops. The town council had considered pedestrianising it to encourage shoppers to eat, drink and browse in the open air while allowing cafes restricted by coronavirus guidelines to serve more customers safely.

But following his discussions with the town's newly-formed traders' association, whose members mostly disliked the proposal, mayor Roy Aldcroft said that the council will drop the plan and consider other ways to spend the £5,000.

Cllr Aldcroft, who also sits on the county council, led a discussion at the latest meeting of the town council's services and facilities committee.

He said: "[The traders] have surveyed their members, they have had a chat with people on the street as well – they have come to the conclusion that it would be a bad idea actually.

"We have got lots of paved area that can be used.

"What [the traders] are asking is 'can we look at an alternative? What can we do for cyclists, tourists?'"

He said the council will be pushing for more bicycle parking and better car park signage, and will continue speaking with the Market Drayton Traders community interest company to support town businesses.

'People were gobsmacked'

He also said that Cheshire Street is mostly pedestrianised already with its wide pavements and Buttercross area, and that closing it to traffic could "kill off" a number of small shops.

Deputy mayor Roger Smith said he was "very pleased and relieved" to hear that the pedestrianisation proposal had been dropped.

"I'm glad we're not going to have the cafe culture anymore because 90 per cent of the residents of Market Drayton I have spoken to have been absolutely dead against the original intention.

"They were gobsmacked that we were going to close a main shopping street in the town and try and get people to park their cars on the car parks because, I'm sorry to say, even though the car parks may be cheap to park on, a lot of people will not pay to park.

"I certainly hope we can get together with this chamber of trade that's coming forward and resolve the problem amicably between us."

Cllr Mike Smith, who has also been in contact with the traders' association, suggested the money could go towards an interactive map screen displaying information about shops in the town.

Four councillors volunteered to be part of a new working group to liaise with the town's traders going forward and work on ideas to increase footfall: Roger Smith, Mike Smith, Mark Whittle and Steven Glover.

Learn more about the traders' association at facebook.com/MDTradersCIC.

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