A one-day trial closure of the Market Place was back on the Town Council’s Town & Community Committee Meeting’s agenda this week with a proposal to trial it on either Thursday 12 or 19 May.
The agenda item was postponed due to the Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller, not being able to attend the meeting due to having Covid as this was a proposal she is very much in favour of.
The idea was first proposed to close Market Place from Joules to Facy at a meeting with retailers in June 2020. This was in response to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of allowing businesses along the Market Place to have more outdoor seating area, and enable greater distancing between market stalls, similar to schemes introduced elsewhere. The proposal was further discussed at the Markets Working Group in March 2021, with a date of 22nd July 2021 agreed. Due to delays in receiving the temporary traffic regulation order (TTRO) for the road closure, this date was pushed back to September 2021. However, again, due to delays in receiving the TTRO, it was felt that there was insufficient time to prepare the closure and adequately inform the community. At its meeting in October 2021, the Town & Community Committee agreed that the item should be deferred, pending an officer’s report on the proposals.
At the meeting this week Councillor Will Hamilton read out two statements, one from a letter from Laurence Morris of Laurence Menswear on Duke Street which said, “I would like to object in the strongest way possible. When this subject was raised at a meeting back in 2020 it was made very clear to the council that the retailers in the town were against this ludicrous idea. At that time no homework was done and it was presented as a “if you don’t try it we won’t know “ idea. It was also presented as a way of increasing distancing during Covid, which thankfully now is less of an issue .At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the council would investigate the idea before any further decisions were made. To my knowledge no local investigation has taken place therefore it would be inconceivable to take a vote in the matter as you do not have all information to hand. No discussions have taken place with local retailers or businesses who I can assure the committee, the majority are totally against this closure.”
Will spoke to Barry Wagner of Machins Butchers before the meeting who said, “We have operated in the Market Place for many years. The business was established over 100 years ago. We have deliveries via our front door Monday to Friday. I think this plan you are discussing tonight is madness, the retail industry is struggling enough. We need to encourage more people into the town, which involves getting customers in and out, free flowing, and congestion free. Not stopping traffic. This simply has not been thought through. How will I get my deliveries of fresh fish, game and meat on a Thursday? What about emergency vehicles using Market Place?”
If the trial is to go ahead, the proposal said it would carry out robust methodology to gather and analyse the data which would include traffic surveys to ascertain current traffic volumes along Market Place, traffic flow around town both before and during the road closure, air quality data, surveys of businesses both on Market Place and elsewhere, residents and visitors and would consult with other key stakeholders, such as the emergency services.
The proposal will be discussed now at the next Town & Community Meeting on 1st March at 7.30pm. The Town Clerk invited residents, businesses and stakeholders to write to him both for and against the proposals. Email S.Jacklin-Edward@henleytowncouncil.gov.uk