So what do businesses think? Mixed views on proposal to shut shopping street to traffic
PUBLISHED: 12:48 15 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:04 15 February 2020
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There has been mixed reaction from businesses about an idea to shut an independent shopping street in Bury St Edmunds to traffic to boost trade.
The proposal for St John's Street, which is known for its vibrant mix of retail and services, has been spearheaded by Rosie Hunter from family-run Vinyl Hunter record shop and cafe.
She believes shutting the road to traffic on Saturdays would improve the shopping experience, allowing people to wander around without haven't to worry about the traffic, and could lead to first-time customers becoming regulars.
READ MORE: Should busy town street become car-free on Saturdays?
Falling footfall and empty units is increasingly becoming a problem in the historic market town, with news of parking charge rises adding to people's concerns.
READ MORE: What has the reaction been to car parking charges going up in Bury St Edmunds?
Businesses have been sent a consultation letter about the plans to pedestrianise the street with the support of the Business Improvement District (BID) group Ourburystedmunds, but what are their initial thoughts?
We spoke to a selection of firms in the picturesque street on the edge of the town centre:
Smoking Monkey Antiques
Antique shop owner Marcia Riddington believes the plans are a "good idea" as closing to traffic would encourage shoppers to venture down there.
"There are so many cars down this street and a lot of them travel far too fast. I know if I go to a different town and if there's a pedestrianised street I always want to go down it. I think it's been closed off probably because it's a nice place."
She said the atmosphere had been "wonderful" when the road had been closed off during the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre and summer St John's Street Festival.
"It just felt really, really good and you could spread out a bit. It was just very nice."
She said trade for her antique shop was fine, adding it had recently had exposure by appearing in an episode of the BBC's Antiques Road Trip show.
She didn't believe closing to traffic on Saturdays would pose too much of a problem for deliveries.
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Room 66 hair salon
Hairdresser Tim Mott has run his salon at the St John's Street premises for 25 years.
He feels strongly that closing that making the street pedestrian-only on Saturdays would be detrimental for his salon, as well as other service businesses there.
"It would be quite bad for us. We do have quite a few people in wheelchairs who actually come to us because our hairdressers is accessible because quite a few of them aren't."
He added quite a proportion of his clients are elderly and need to be dropped off and picked up, and brides don't want to walk across town with their hair up or a veil in.
He questioned where the evidence was closing the street would improve trade, adding a lot of service industry businesses there are already doing quite well.
Speaking about his salon, he said: "Business is good. People stick with their hairdressers. All the time costs go up - I don't make the money I did - but I'm busier than I've ever been before."
He also believes the pavements are wide enough, but illegal parking and obstructions like A-boards needed to be tackled.
Wright's cafe opened in St John's Street in October 2019 after owner Adam Wright took a punt and moved his business off the market and into a premises.
He is doing a roaring trade - and could actually do with more space - and is "all for" pedestrianisation to emulate European cafe culture.
"I think the death of the high street is quite a real thing and we need to embrace food and drink to keep the high street alive."
He said Christmas Fayre trade had been a "real lifeline" for his business having just opened a month earlier.
He added: "If it was pedestrianised we would have more families coming, a nicer atmosphere."
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