BUSINESS owners and residents in Poole have criticised the council in their handling of pedestrianised area of their high street, saying it will put people off visiting the area.

After a ‘soft launch’ for its first week, vehicle access, apart from deliveries, to the lower section of High Street in Poole will be prohibited between 10am and 10pm and prioritised for cycling and walking as part of the council’s active travel scheme.

However, the scheme, which will also allow eateries to put seating outside their premises to increase their customer capacity, has been condemned, with publicans and business owners saying that a large section of their customer base have been overlooked.

Bournemouth Echo:

Mike and Clare Bennett, who owns The Fisherman’s Café, have said that they are in danger of losing up to 40 per cent of their clientele because of the pedestrianisation of the high street.

As his customers usually pull into the existing loading bays opposite the cafe or short stay car parking places on Poole Quay, which will no longer exist if the pedestrianisation of the high street, he is worried that a substantial part of his business will be be lost.  

“Our regular customer base are locals and fishermen,” said Mike.

“We normally open at around 7am, sometimes 6.45am. The fishermen park in the short stay car park, come round to us for breakfast, then they head round to the tackle shop to pick up supplies and then head off.

“That is what they have been doing for years, it is just part of their routine. If there is no short-term parking, there is no point in them coming to us.”

The experimental closure will be in place for 18 months with amendments able to be made for the first six months.

Bournemouth Echo:

As vans and other large vehicles are unable to park in the multi-storey car park near Poole Quay due to height restrictions, it is feared that this customer base will leave entirely as they will find more convenient businesses elsewhere.

Mike added: “They have sold it on the outside dining experience which isn’t a bad idea and could be something shop owners can get on board with.

“However, due to social distancing and in order to allow access for emergency vehicles to get up and down the street, businesses will be forced to only put two or three tables outside.

“As we have to pay a fee to have them outside, will it be worth having them?”

Many businesses have said they rely on customers being able to drive their cars down the road in order to load up or pick up items for deliveries or unload items, for example musicians providing entertainment at pubs and restaurants.

The pedestrianisation of the high street will also mean the existing bus route will change to bypass the old high street and taxis will no longer be able to drive along the road during the daytime, reducing access for elderly or physical impaired individuals.

Nicky Wheller, owner of the Kings Head who lives above the pub on High Street, said: “We are not swept off our feet in the winter months, so we rely on locals to continue coming here and supporting us.

“A lot of them are elderly and have walking stick, wheelchairs or mobility scooters or get dropped off at places by taxis.

“So if this pedestrianisation reduces local’s ability to get here, we will have none of our disabled customers coming.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Even businesses that are not inhibited by the change in road layout have shown their disapproval of the scheme.

Anna Doyle, landlord at the Lord Nelson on Poole Quay, said: “With the best will in the world, my access isn’t affected but it is not just about me. We are all in this together.

“People need to be more considerate about other people. Just because the pedestrianisation may help visitors to the area, it will inconvenience residents and people who call this places home.

“With a couple of tweaks and a bit of give, it will not only work but it would support what is already here.

“It could well help the area and businesses could do better as a result of it. However, businesses only know what they have and what they could lose if this doesn’t work and many of them are struggling so much that they don’t want to risk it.”