Report reveals view of businesses to trial closure of busy town route
Glorious Gloucestershire Linda Cook took this picture in Imperial Gardens, Cheltenham
AMAJORITY of businesses surveyed in Cheltenham’s town centre have reported reduced turnover because of the trial closure of Boots Corner, a leaked survey shows.
A leaked report found 52 per cent of businesses are reporting a decrease since the junction closed to unauthorised vehicles in June 2018.
The survey, conducted by Cheltenham Business Improvement District (BID), also found that six per cent of businesses felt that the pilot closure has positively impacted the amount of shoppers coming into their stores.
Of the 531 businesses in the BID zone, just 28 responded to the survey something which the leaked report said is “fairly consistent” with the levels of engagement the BID receives from surveys and is “maybe lower than desirable”.
Cheltenham BID director Kevan Blackadder said the organisation is “concerned about the effects that the trial is having on some of our businesses”.
The trial scheme began last June, banning general traffic from using the route as part of Cheltenham Borough Council-led scheme to make the town centre more pedestrian friendly.
Only exempt vehicles, such as buses and taxis, can pass through.
A final decision on whether to make the pilot closure permanent will be made this December by Gloucestershire County Council’s traffic regulation committee.
According to the report, the survey “struggled to find positive feedback”.
The responses of the businesses were broken down into six areas: Montpellier; Clarence Street and Clarence Parade; Promenade; Regent Arcade; High Street; and the Brewery Quarter.
No businesses have been named in the report.
The report said the only area which has not been negatively impacted by trial in terms of customers, staff and deliveries was the Brewery Quarter.
When asked what direct impact has the trial closure had on customers and their choice to visit the BID’S stores, 68 per cent felt that shoppers to their business have been negatively impacted, the report said.
In Montpellier, all businesses’ turnover has declined and 60 per cent of them said the trial had a negative impact on how easily people are able to get to them.
The document comes as a study into footfall in the town centre found more people are visited the high street despite a national five per cent drop late last year.
The borough council said it looks to approach everything in an open and transparent way, adding some data comes from independent sources.
The report said: “The general consensus from businesses was that customers, staff and deliveries have all been negatively impacted across the whole of the BID zone, with the only
exception being the Brewery Quarter.
“Concerns have been voiced regard- ing increased travel times, with many reporting difficulties in finding suitable car parking spaces and the public transport system being unsuitable for the night time economy.
“This direct negative impact on customers is having a noticeable effect on footfall and more worryingly on the levels of trade itself with some longstanding businesses reporting a decline in business of 20 to 30 per cent since the start of the trial.”
Cheltenham BID said businesses will be surveyed again in September when they have settled into recent changes to the trial, including making Clarence Parade and the western end of Clarence Street open to all vehicles with two-way traffic flow.
Mr Blackadder said: “The reason the BID has not shared the details publicly is that the survey was carried out on the basis that the information received was collected to inform the borough council.
“I can confirm that the vast majority of those who responded said they had been negatively impacted as a result of the trial closure.
“The BID is concerned about the effects that the trial is having on some of our businesses and made that clear when we presented the information to the council.
“The BID has made various recommendations to the councils after consultations with BID businesses, some of which have already been implemented to improve the trial scheme for businesses and to mitigate the impact of the trial.”
Councillor Andrew Mckinlay (LD, Up Hatherley), cabinet member for development and safety on the borough council, said: “We would like to thank the BID for sharing these results with us and we welcome the feedback that has been provided.
“We would have liked more than 5 per cent of businesses to have completed the survey sowe will look to welcome further feedback from the business community to ensure we get a wide as possible representation.
“I would encourage all businesses, community groups and residents to provide their feedback using the online survey which will be live for the remainder of the trial.’’
A spokesman for Mr Chalk said: “These results are devastating, and explode the myth that this bungled scheme is good for local businesses.
“It has already cost millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money and fines on hard-pressed motorists.
“Instead of throwing good money after bad, the borough council should scrap the trial, and focus on the real priorities for our town - youth facilities, street cleaning and improving recycling.”
For more on the report, visit gloucesrershirelive.co.uk
I would encourage all to provide feedback using the online survey
Councillor Andrew Mckinlay
✒ NEXT year I’ll be celebrating 30 years working as a doctor in our NHS (20 years working in Gloucestershire) and looking back I am very grateful and proud to have been part of such a wonderful organisation.
It isn’t perfect but it is very precious and we must never take it for granted, especially now.
That is why I am increasingly concerned about the threat to our NHS of leaving the European Union, especially with no deal.
I am not alone in this and Brexit, and in particular a no deal Brexit, is felt by the BMA and the vast majority of doctors to be very damaging for the NHS.
Over the years, I have worked with fantastic colleagues from all over Europe who have chosen to work in our NHS and make this country their home.
British doctors benefit from exchange programmes to centres of excellence in Europe and being part of the EU has made this exchange of talent and knowledge seamless.
There are approximately 11,000 doctor and 24,000 nursing vacancies in this country due to a recruitment crisis and the biggest group of foreign NHS workers are from Europe.
Applications have slumped since Brexit and many of the European doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who are already here are leaving.
The UK has a fantastic record in medical research and attracts many of the most promising researchers in the world , as we are able to participate in large multicentre European trials.
As a result of our record, we receive much more back in research grants than we put into the EU’S research programme.
No wonder then that Sir Paul Nurse, geneticist and Nobel prize winner, has said that Brexit, and in particular a No Deal Brexit, will be a disaster for scientific research in this country.
With regard to medicines, currently these can flow in and out of the UK due to frictionless trade with the EU and this keeps costs down (vital for the NHS) and allows us all to benefit promptly from newer and more costly treatments.
The supply of radioisotopes, not made in the UK but vital to the treatment of cancer, depends on our membership of Euratom and the EU.
There is a real risk that access to these will be disrupted, particularly in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
We are already starting to see supply issues with some medicines.
Finally, in the event of a No Deal Brexit, well over a million often elderly British ex pats in Europe will lose the reciprocal healthcare benefits which they so rely on.
There is widespread concern and alarm in the NHS.
This is the first time I have ever written to a newspaper and I am doing so now because I am so worried we are sleepwalking to a disaster for our NHS.
Boots Corner at the start of the closure