No traffic centre “death knell” of Sidmouth claim traders

No support from Sidmouth traders over pedestrianisation at Chamber of Commerce AGM

TOWN centre pedestrianisation will be the “death knell of Sidmouth”, warns one of its long-standing traders this week.

Sheila Kerridge, who runs Vinnicombes bakery with her husband Martin, spelled out the consequences of removing traffic from the shopping centre at Tuesday’s annual meeting of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce.

“I think my business had a fair taste of what pedestrianisation would be like when the road was closed in November. We had probably the worst month of takings ever in 40 years of being in business,” she said.

“The snow in December was bad, then we had a disastrous January. Never in 40 years of business have we had it like this...just because traffic was not coming down. People got used to going somewhere else.”

She predicted permanent pedestrianisation of the town centre was likely to lead to the failure of her business “and that is not scaremongering. We have had to use some of our savings to pay our Corporation Tax and we have never been in that situation before.”

Others in business agreed, with none of the 45 Chamber members present indicating they favoured a traffic-free shopping centre.

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Chris Taylor, of C & C Electrical, said when the Vision Group for Sidmouth was launched he and three others were asked to look into the issue of traffic and pedestrianisation and how it would affect tourism, locals shopping in the town and traders.

“We did an extensive report and came to the conclusion it wouldn’t work for Sidmouth,” he said. “It would cause problems for deliveries for businesses and most people who come to Sidmouth for a day trip don’t come all day unless they are going to the beach.

“If they are shopping in the town they are only here for a few hours.”

The elderly and those with prams were unlikely to go to the bother of getting on and off park and ride buses and would probably go elsewhere to shop, he added.

Edwina Ford of Grace boutique said: “Lots of people drive through the town and look at its shops and if you don’t have that they will never stay.”

Trevor Roberts, managing director of Fields of Sidmouth, said: “Until such a time when service roads for businesses and cheaper adjacent parking is available it is a non-starter.”

Owner of Pure Indulgence, Steven Kendall-Torry, added: “Cars driving up and down makes a town look alive. If you pedestrianise it, it will just have a few people in it and look dead.

“Moving traffic, despite the fact that certain people despise it and want it out of town, adds a sense of prosperity and movement which wouldn’t be there without cars. I think our views should be taken into account.”

Roger Davey of Baraza said the Chamber needed to provide facts and figures to back its reasons not to support pedestrianisation. “Then the council wouldn’t have a leg to stand on because it doesn’t know what will happen if they do pedestrianise it.”

Alan Parrish of 4Homes said a previous survey among 200 people, showed pedestrianisation would not be good for Sidmouth and it was parking arrangements and the flow of traffic through the town that needed to be addressed.

Chamber chairman Richard Eley said 93 percent of those coming to the West Country came by car and it was important to have an open mind and a proper debate on the subject.

“It is not just for the Chamber to impose its will on 13,500 people in the town.”