TRADERS in a Chester street fear their businesses will be damaged and disrupted if a footway widening scheme goes ahead.
The improvement is planned on part of Brook Street with the aim of making the road more pedestrian friendly to improve trading.
Area highway manager Colin Stredder says the city and county councils have been working with the Brook Street traders and the community for several years.
This has led to a number of environmental improvements including the installation of CCTV, lighting upgrades and the Hoole Way pedestrian crossing.
It is now proposed to widen the footway between Charles Street and Milton Street as part of Chester Renaissance and also carry out improvements to alleyways off Brook Street.
The proposals, to be funded by the North West Development Agency and the Heritage Lottery Fund, were outlined to traders last April and received strong support according to a report.
Parking restrictions are now proposed along a short length of the road near Brook Place to avoid obstruction of large vehicles turning out of Charles Street.
The measure was advertised for public consultation and a public meeting was held last month (December).
City highway chiefs are due to hear at a Town Hall meeting on Thursday (January 22) that only a few traders attended together with a number of residents from Bowling Green Court.
Traders said they were concerned about the disruption to business while the footway was being widened while issues were also raised by occupiers of Bowling Green Court.
Mr Stredder says an objection and a 39 name petition from traders has now been received opposing the reduction in parking, which would see two parking spaces lost and the footway widening scheme.
Traders argue that more customer parking is needed in the area not less.
Businesses say the petition has been signed by almost every proprietor in Brook Street.
Although they would like to see improvements, everyone is said to be “totally opposed” to the disruption and damage to trade during the 10 weeks of works “and unbelievably the eight weeks of road closure we have been told will be necessary”.
Adding that “even a fraction of this would be unacceptable to many of us” the traders say the closure “is just not on, particularly starting in mid-March, right over Easter and the start of the season”.
They argue that councils, highway departments and contractors have to find ways of completing works without causing that sort of disruption and point out “many businesses say they have not yet recovered from the Hoole Bridge closure”.
Mr Stredder says that although the traders' concerns about the loss of two parking spaces is understood, due to low levels of enforcement, many vehicles at present park on Brook Street for much longer than the 30 minute waiting allowed.
He believes the introduction of civil parking enforcement will improve the situation and the vehicles concerned “some of which anecdotally belong to traders” will begin to use the St Anne Street car park which has “excellent links” to Brook Street and significant spare capacity.
Mr Stredder accepts the traders want to see improvements “but understandably do not want to have any disruption” and says that while every attempt would be made to limit this, it would not be possible to undertake the work to the footway without some form of road closures.
He reveals that further consultation with the traders is due to take place by the City Council Renaissance Team and a decision will have to be taken about whether the long-term benefits to Brook Street merit the disruption in the short term.
City and county councillors will hear that if the city council decides not to go ahead with the footway improvement, the need for additional restrictions will be unnecessary.
Mr Stredder is recommending the no waiting order should only be implemented if the footway works go ahead.
At an earlier stage, Boughton City Cllr Bob Rudd (Lab) commented: “Many people park all day and are not ticketed.” He suggested that tickets would allow customers to use Brook Street as intended.
Vice chairman of the city's highways and transportation committee County Cllr Sue Proctor (Lib Dem, Boughton Heath & Vicars Cross) said: “I would not like to see anything which would be detrimental to the Brook Street traders.”