What town community told councillors about ‘polarising’ pedestrianisation
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The pedestrianisation of a town centre has proved a polarising topic in Beccles since measures were introduced to aid social distancing.
With more than 50 people tuning into an extraordinary meeting of Beccles Town Council on Thursday night, August 13, councillor Graham Catchpole said passions were running the highest he had seen in his 12 years as a councillor.
As with all council meetings, members of the public were given an opportunity to speak, with four showing their support for the plans and two in opposition.
Isaac Carter, a member of youth parliament for Waveney and north Suffolk, said: “The environmental positives are undeniable - getting rid of polluting cars from the town centre and replacing them with bikes will do a lot of good for people.
“I did quite a representative poll of young people on Instagram and it came back 60pc in favour of pedestrianisation, so it is the will of the people of the future.”
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Arguing against pedestrianisation, James Cracknell said: “I would like councillors to consider how they are meeting their legal and moral obligation regarding the Equality Act.
“One of my sons is autistic and visually impaired. Parking in New Market means he can visit shops nearby, which helps lower his anxiety.
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“We also need to consider those who can’t afford parking, for example foodbank users; those of age with increased mobility problems or lonliness, and there’s also pregnant women, parents of young children and those with mental health issues.”
Local resident Jan Oakley said: “I feel the strategy is sound as we can queue safely for places such as Barclays bank.
“The parking strategy over the years has resulted in a vibrant shopping environment which has coped well despite the growth of internet shopping.
“The only difference between Beccles and other market towns is we have a Tesco with three hours of free parking within the town centre.
“I have heard all the arguments that say people cannot walk that far but if you can only walk a few yards, then you are unlikely to be browsing our shops and we can all agree we need browsers in our town centre.”
Georgina Salt said she believes the town is a safer place for those “slower on their feet.” She said: “I have two sisters with Down’s Syndrome and a son with autism. We shop regularly in town on a Saturday, but it is very difficult to walk safely.
“New Market is particularly hard to cross with cars circling constantly looking for parking spaces, so I think this has been brilliant.
“It means we can cross safely and calmly and has made for a nicer atmosphere.
Sandy Perrin said: “Recently I have visited Leiston, Norwich, Bungay, Halesworth, Harleston, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston and spoken with every shopkeeper I saw and without exception, every one of them told me they were experiencing less footfall, loss of custom and a downturn in income.
“In other words, it has nothing at all to do with pedestrianisation.
“I counted today 14 people in a queue for Barclays, one metre plus distanced, and if it wasn’t for pedestrianisation they would be dodging cars going round and round trying to find a space.”
At the meeting, councillors approved plans to move the current plant boxes to around 5ft from the pavement to block parking spaces from outside Greggs to Barclays at the junction with Ballygate.
The road will then reopen between Mondays and Thursdays, before closing for the Friday market and remaining shut until 6pm on Sundays until January.