Traders fear ban on cars in Hanley could harm business
BUSINESSES have hit out at plans to ban cars from the city centre in a move they claim could leave shoppers taking their money elsewhere.
Shop owners have spoken out following news of major changes to the road layout in Hanley.
The works will take place overnight between March 25 and 26, to change traffic flow in the area, as Stoke-on-Trent City Council aims to create a more pedestrian-friendly city centre.
Several roads including Stafford Street and parts of John Street and Bethesda Street will become pedestrianised zones with access for public transport, while others will be entirely traffic-free.
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Old Hall Street will be blocked off to traffic except for disabled blue badge holders who will be able to park for free on the street.
Additional disabled parking areas will be set up outside the enlarged pedestrian zone.
The changes coincide with the opening of the council's flagship new bus station, and are part of a wider bid to stimulate a revival in the city centre's fortunes.
But the move has been met with a cool reception from traders.
Paul Magee, aged 52, has run Gemini Menswear in Piccadilly for 37 years. He said: "Pedestrian areas haven't helped the city centre so far.
"We hoped the pedestrianisation of Piccadilly would boost business.
"But unless we start to see new shops, restaurants, cafes and farmers' markets or trade fairs, there's no point."
Rupee Bains, owner of Beauty Lounge, in the recently pedestrianised Tontine Street, said her business has significantly reduced in the last four months.
She said: "When the works were going on no-one knew we were here. And a lot of my customers are elderly and don't want to walk from much further than Stafford Street.
"Maybe, a couple of years from now, when they finish developing the shopping centre that's been promised to us for years, we will start to see a difference."
George Boden, owner of Boden's Newsagent's in Stafford Street, added: "It's a combination of factors that have seen business dramatically reduce over the years. The lack of free parking drives people to Festival Park, and the Potteries Shopping Centre. I'm hopeful that if people are getting dropped off from buses on Stafford Street, we will get a bit of a boost. But I can't see it going back to the level that it once was."
Provision for loading and unloading areas outside city centre businesses has been made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
But Danielle Nikolova, owner of Cafe Toffs, near Stafford Street, said: "As a business owner, I can't say I welcome the changes. As a shopper it might be nice to have fewer cars racing around.
"But it's hard enough for me to load and unload outside my business. I have to get here before 10am and it limits my outside trade.
"I would prefer to keep Stafford Street as it is so people will continue to be dropped off at the top of Piccadilly and walk down."
However, shoppers were more positive about the changes.
Michelle Cole, aged 31, from Old Road, in Stone, said: "I visit Hanley quite a lot to do a bit of shopping. The Cultural Quarter is really struggling. You could barely call it that really, which is a shame because it could do with some more independent shops or cafes.
"Maybe if people saw it as one big high street, more shops would move in. Plus it will be nice to not have a lung full of fumes walking through the city centre."
Gloria Oxford, aged 60, from Newcastle, said: "The pedestrian areas that are in place now are quite attractive.
It might improve the appearance of the town and make it less polluted."
The direction of traffic flow will also be changed on some streets including Foundry Street and Trinity Street.
A temporary road closure area will come into effect from 7pm on Monday to 5am on Tuesday as changes are made to the roads.
Council marshalls will be on hand to assist motorists.
The council's technical services assistant director, Pete Price, said: "There will be a degree of disruption as these changes take place, but they are essential to enable the new traffic flow once the bus station is open.
"The bus station is part of a wider package of city centre improvements being delivered in the coming years including the Central Business District and City Sentral.
"The changes will take place on Monday night and highways officers will be in the city centre throughout the rest of the week."
Drivers will face a £60 fine for using the bus lanes in Hanley, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
But Staffordshire Police say there will be a period of grace to allow drivers to get used to the new road layout.
Sgt Ian Hancock said: "There will be a familiarisation period for motorists before police look to prosecute drivers."
Maps showing the changes in detail, including disabled parking and cycle routes, are available from www.stoke.gov.uk