Major roadworks on one of the main routes into Lynn are being blamed for a big fall in town centre footfall during the run-up to Christmas.
New figures have revealed visitor numbers were down by more than 13 per cent in December compared with the previous year.
But politicians and business leaders say they have been encouraged by the success of seasonally-themed events and the strong performance of several town-based retailers.
Data published in agenda papers for West Norfolk Council’s meeting later this week revealed footfall levels in Lynn’s town centre fell by 13.4 per cent last month, compared with December 2016.
Year-on-year totals were also down by 4.5 per cent from 8.2 million visits to 7.8 million, a faster rate than the 3.5 per cent decline recorded across the UK as a whole.
But the Lynn total is still up by more than 20 per cent since the data was first collected in 2007.
Peter Hodson, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for performance, said in his report to Thursday’s full council meeting that the December figure was “disappointing” and represented a “significant drop”.
But he added: “I think we can safely put a good chunk of that down to the on-going A47 Saddlebow Bridge repairs as well as the gridlock caused by multiple road accidents during the month just outside of town.”
Drivers have faced consistent delays heading in and out of the town since the bridges at the Saddlebow interchange were closed for repairs in October.
However, he added: “On a positive note, despite the downturn in footfall, many leading retailers reported that they had fared pretty well in November and December, some in the top five of their region.
Mr Hodson also highlighted the impact of events including the town’s Christmas lights switch-on and its inaugural Christmas market.
He said the town had been “the busiest it’s been for years at a late night shopping event.”
The market was organised by the BID committee, Discover King’s Lynn, who are also working with the council to stage specialist markets in the Saturday Market Place during the spring and summer.
The group’s chairman, Darren Taylor, said they were already working on plans to make the Christmas market bigger and better in 2018.
And he claimed the BID’s ability to stage the market and fund free parking promotions during the run-up to Christmas had reduced the impact of the works.
He said: “It would have been worse without the impact of the BID.”
Mr Taylor said he had also written to the borough council to offer the group’s support for a new study looking at traffic issues in the town.
Around £300,000 is being spent on the project, of which half the funding is being drawn from Norfolk’s combined business rates pool. Both the borough and Norfolk County Councils are contributing £75,000.
But he warned that the town would face “immense” problems without investment in schemes to resolve the traffic problems.
He said: “We need to keep pushing. I’ve said we will do whatever we can.”