Traders' fury at county council 'snub'

SHOPKEEPERS in market towns have angrily accused Suffolk County Council of snubbing them by urging people to do their Christmas shopping in Ipswich.

Richard Smith

SHOPKEEPERS in market towns last night angrily accused Suffolk County Council of snubbing them by urging people to do their Christmas shopping in Ipswich.

Traders reacted with fury when they were told to put up posters in their shop windows and given leaflets promoting park and ride routes into the county town.

They said it was the “wrong thing” for the county council to do while local shops were battling against difficult trading conditions and were hoping for a festive sales boost.

Last night, the council said it did want people to support local shops but wanted to promote the park and ride for people planning to travel to Ipswich.

Leaflets and posters were handed out in Wickham Market, Stowmarket, Needham Market, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Aldeburgh, Leiston, Saxmundham and Framlingham.

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Many traders - who were given boxes of leaflets to hand out advertising the park and ride - were so upset by the move they ripped up the promotional material.

Newsagent Pat O'Hagan, who runs News Plus, in Woodbridge's Thoroughfare, said she was appalled when she received the park and ride advertising.

She said: “It went straight into the bin. We want people to shop in Woodbridge and when you are in Ipswich you are not given leaflets advertising other towns, are you?”

Jimmy Robinson, mayor of Aldeburgh, said: “It would be nice if people could shop locally in and around the Aldeburgh area.

“Obviously there are some things that people want to go to Ipswich for and it would be better if they use park and ride - but they should try and shop locally and support our traders. We need to keep them going.”

Mick Taylor, of MCT Electrical, in High Street, Aldeburgh, said he had been told that a county council representative had been visiting all the shops in recent weeks and giving out information on park and ride for display.

He said this sent out the wrong message from the county council and it should be urging everyone to support local traders.

Terry Sibert, co-owner of East Coast Promotions, in Leiston, said some shopkeepers did not initially realise the implications of putting up posters advertising park and ride.

“They are trying to get people to leave Leiston and do their shopping in Ipswich. I could not believe that and this was the wrong thing by the county council to do,” he said.

In Stowmarket, Richard Whymark, who works for Hicks Electrical, said: “This is appalling. When we are trying to encourage people to use the small town independent retailer, to promote the bigger towns - which most of the year take business away - does not help at all.

“These people are the same ones committed to supporting the small shops - what on earth is going on?”

Sandra Graffham, a spokeswoman for the county council, said: “While we encourage people to support their local shops, we also want people if they are visiting Ipswich, to use park and ride.

“We have advertised the new lower fares on the park and ride in towns outside Ipswich because this is where the people who use park and ride are most likely to come from, residents of Ipswich are less likely to use the service.”

She added: “Many people who live in the surrounding towns work in Ipswich and we want to encourage them not to drive into town but to give park and ride a try.”

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