News that plans to refurbish Saturday Market Place, St James Street and Tower Street in Lynn are likely to be “rephased to a later financial year” was hardly the New Year message that hard-pressed traders wanted to hear.
For the way things are going at present, many of these businessfolk, mainly small independent traders who are the true life-blood of any town, may not survive to see the £2 million Townscape Heritage Scheme come to fruition in the next five years.
The reason for the delay by the borough council is to comply with the availability of Heritage Lottery grant money, but in the meantime there are other measures that can be taken, such as easing car parking charges.
This call comes from businessman Clifford Prior, and if the council should be listening to anyone on this matter, then no one is more qualified to speak about the Saturday Market Place than our Clifford.
His family had run a butcher’s shop in the Saturday Market Place since the 1930s, and had acquired an enviable reputation for excellent service and quality meats with generations of loyal customers, who were prepared to go out of their way to support the business, even as it became harder and harder to park near the shop.
But even this outstanding business was forced to call it a day in Lynn and move to premises at Knights Hill, South Wootton, and Dersingham, where there is easier vehicular access for customers.
Parking charges are best known as the big stick with which the borough council regularly thrashes motorists in Lynn, but why cannot they also be used as the carrot to stimulate trade in the less popular areas of town not blessed with immediate access to the multi-storey car park?
Why not cut the parking charges on the Saturday Market Place by at least half, or even more? As much as anything, it would send out a signal to beleaguered traders that their plight had been acknowledged, and it might even encourage businesses to move into the empty premises.
In fact, the council should seriously consider a dramatic drop in parking charges for all of Lynn town centre right through January and February until the Mart has gone. Every year the central area is really dead over those two months and while traders complain bitterly, those in authority do not take a blind bit of notice.
Parking charges have long been looked on as a cash-cow by local authorities, particularly Tory-run ones, but in the case of Lynn, they could one day prove the final nail in the coffin.
The out-of-town retail areas, especially at Hardwick, have been expanding at an alarming rate in recent years, offering an ever-wider array of goods and services, all with the bonus of free parking.
If the council have not been warned by the opening of Sainsbury’s mighty new emporium towering over the Hardwick roundabout, then perhaps they might finally get the message later this year when Tesco hits town with their latest mega-offering, also at Hardwick.
Cutting parking charges in 2013 would at least be a modest pick-me-up for the town centre. How about it Mr Council Leader Daubney ? Let’s have action – while there is still time.