Bill Wiggin MP for North Herefordshire has voiced his concern over Herefordshire’s Coalition Council and Balfour Beatty’s plan to reduce access to Market Town Centres as the lock down is lifted.

The proposed plans involve timed closures of roads in the centre of the market towns throughout the constituency of North Herefordshire.

This will occur throughout the day, exactly when shops will be open and looking forward to welcoming new trade from near and far.

Only cyclists will be permitted to use the streets. Whilst this sort of plan may work in a city, North Herefordshire is an incredibly rural area where villages and towns are not easily linked.

Other proposed measures would include removing traffic lanes on wider roads, restricting roads to one way, adjustments to parking arrangements and the introduction of 20 mile per hour zones.

Mr Wiggin questioned the proposals, voicing his concern that this would harm shops that are just beginning to re-open following the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting, Mr Wiggin said:

“Right at the moment when people are permitted to go shopping again and shop owners are looking forward to welcoming back trade, Herefordshire’s Coalition Council’s proposed measures will effectively put the brakes on this.

This Council must think again before changing our town centres. People wishing to travel in, not only from our rural areas but further afield will no longer be able to get in to the market towns and spend money. Instead, they will simply use big supermarket car parks.

It is my great concern that this will destroy what hope small, independent retailers have just when they need it the most.

Shops on the high street will eventually be replaced by yet more charity shops. Charity shops are eligible for 80% business rates relief and when you consider that business rates go to Council funds then this seems a damaging plan.

I understand that the Coalition Council are trying to get Government funding but I would ask, is it really wise to shut down our already suffering town centres just as retail is coming back to life?

North Herefordshire is not the same as Hereford City – people cannot easily use bicycles safely to travel in from rural areas and many of my constituents rely cars as their only means of transport.”

Bill Wiggin MP’s comments have coincided with his support for Independent Bookshop Week, adding:

“The last few months have been a very challenging time for businesses, and it is important that, with the easing of lockdown restrictions, we support our local stores.

This week is Independent Bookshop week, and I would encourage my constituents to get out there and shop.

Please pop in to one of North Herefordshire’s wonderful independent bookstores.

Let us hope that the Council’s restrictive plans will not dampen the appetite for people to get out and support our smaller retailers that are such an important part of our towns.”