Buttercross, January 23, 2015: We must bring trade into Swaffham’s town centre, not drive it away

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The future shape and direction of our town has been a regular subject in this column. Like many towns and villages, we appear to be in line for a considerable injection of new housing.

Constantly, questions are being asked about where the necessary employers are to be found that will support what, over time, will be a considerable increase in our local and, hopefully, working age population.

Gone are the days of businesses in Swaffham that employed large numbers of people. Many will remember building contractors employing local men and boys, many of whom were basically unskilled.

We additionally had Corbatch’s and Magnetic Devices, both requiring a substantial workforce with good hand and finger skills, plus an alert brain that could keep up with required work speeds.

All these businesses are long gone for various reasons and any chance of replacing them with similar enterprises seems extremely remote.

Given this, where are employers to be found for our younger people? The obvious answer lies in the necessity to encourage smaller businesses into town.

Some are already here us and they need all the support that can be mustered. In our town centre there are different problems.

Some are being hit badly by out of town superstores taking trade away. We have good butchers in our town and it is said that customer numbers in one butchers are now down by 100 to 150 per week. But, on the brighter side, our one quality fruit, vegetable and florist’s shop still appears to trade strongly.

One constant subject that comes up is car parking. It has been pointed out that all major roads approaching our town indicate “free parking.” This is true, but motorists need to be sure they park according to the related signage, which does not always appear logical.

Recently parking tickets have been issued to drivers parking within the Saturday market stalls areas, during the market’s indicated operating time, despite it being a day when stalls were long gone and sweeping was completed. Those shoppers are not likely to return.

Surely it must be sensible to adjust the wording to indicate that parking is allowed once market paraphernalia is cleared away and sweeping has been completed, almost invariably well before the present 5pm deadline is reached.

A further query has been raised over the need for Saturday restrictions to apply to the parking spaces on the north side of the Church Walk entrance. The signage says these spaces are “out of use” on market days despite market stalls very rarely, if ever, being set up there.

That’s three more public parking spaces being removed from use unnecessarily and motorists have been booked for using them. That is not conducive once again for promoting our town centre shops and it is not unreasonable to expect our councillors to be looking at these matters.