Businesses fear Rawtenstall masterplan will kill town centre shopping

Business leaders in Rawtenstall have voiced their concerns about the Masterplan for the town which they fear will lead to shoppers avoiding the centre and going elsewhere.

Rawtenstall Masterplan has been drawn up by Rossendale Borough Council and Lancashire County Council. The multi-million-pound plan proposes several major projects being implemented including: redeveloping the market, redesigning the gyratory system at Queen’s Square, introducing a bus lane, creating a town centre one-way system on main streets and removing on-street parking.

Although members of Rawtenstall Chamber of Commerce are excited that funding has been made available, concerns have been raised about the potential impact the disruption will cause. They have other positive proposals they would like to see put forward regarding how the investment in the town centre could be used.

Chairman David Gould said: “We recognise that it is vital that any changes that are to be made are the right ones and these changes must be carefully planned to ensure that they will impact existing businesses minimally, such that they are able to continue operating profitably during and beyond the period when works are being carried out.

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“Many of our members are suffering the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, subdued customer confidence and inflation, they are nervous that RBC might embark upon schemes which will add to their existing problems.”

The Chamber has sought advice from nationally recognised experts before compiling a three-page response to the masterplan.

In it they raise concerns about where the market stalls may be relocated to while any development happens and whether parking spaces may be taken up by contractors.

They ask what steps LCC is taking to minimise the damage making changes to the gyratory system will create for shoppers.

The members question whether a bus lane is needed and are very critical of proposals to make Bank Street and Kay Street one way with on-street parking removed.

In an open letter to the Rossendale Council Chief Executive Rob Huntington, the Chamber says: “The overwhelming feeling of the members was that, if RBC enforced off street parking, there would be no need to make streets one way. Losing the car parking spaces on Bank Street and Kay Street will have a very serious impact on the businesses on those streets.

“There are merits in having two-way traffic on Bank Street and surely it makes sense to wait and see how the ‘improved’ gyratory system impacts on the town’s centre; once this is known a one-way scheme may be completely unnecessary.”

There are also concerns that there is a perceived move to get all traffic out of the town centres.

The Chamber has reiterated its preferred means of ensuring the success of the town centre would be to enforce on-street limited waiting and the limited parking disc system which used to operate in car parks.

However, the letter stresses: “Charging for parking will drive customers away and they will not return and RBC must appreciate this. Charging for parking must be avoided.”

Rossendale Council has been made aware of the Chamber’s concerns and will be responding in due course.