Chairman of the York Retail Forum Frank Wood says the trial has made York less accessible and damaged its economy
At the last York Retail Forum meeting an unplanned, impromptu vote was taken, following an unexpected downturn in turnover for most of the retailers present, to call on the council to abandon the test of the closure of Lendal Bridge, and re-open it immediately – a view also supported by the Chamber of Commerce in York.
The closure is clearly not working. Visitors are suffering, feeling “ripped off” and unjustly fined, declaring that they will never come to York again – this is creating massive bad feeling for the city at a time when Visit York are trying hard to attract more visitors.
Retailers are being negatively affected in that business has reduced since the closure. This will put at risk any future investment plans and may result in the loss of more jobs. Delivery businesses are being affected, in that it takes so much longer to make the extreme detour to the opposite side of the bridge.
And residents don’t like it, causing York to be even more inaccessible – the letter pages of the media are full with pleas for the bridge to be reopened.
Reasons don’t add up
The reasons for the closure are not justifiable. It is not pedestrian friendly as it is more dangerous to have fast moving buses, taxis and even cycles travelling across the bridge than slower moving cars; it is not eco-friendly as the carbon footprint will not be reduced as more fuel is used to take the huge detours needed to cross the river; the air quality may be improved around the bridge (great for the ducks) but must be much worse in the residential areas that are now used, as a detour, to avoid the bridge.
It is essential, for the welfare of York, that the city is attractive to visitors, not just tourists but also for visitors from around the hinterland of York. We need access to the city to be readily available, like it or not cars are here to stay and have to be accommodated – not everyone will travel on public transport.
If we keep making the city more difficult to get to, then the footfall, already falling, will reduce even further. This will impact on jobs and investment in York.
We need the city to also be attractive for investors; we need to attract high profile companies, both in retail and non-retail, to regain our low empty shop rate and keep our unemployment figures under control.
York is a beautiful, historical city, but it is also a commercial city and without that commerce it cannot survive. There are too many options for visitors and shoppers: the internet, out of town shopping malls, easy access small towns to name a few.
York needs to be competitive and it cannot be so if obstacles keep appearing which makes it harder and harder to access the city.
The Retail Forum is happy to work with the council to improve the prosperity and attractiveness of the city but we cannot support the continuance of this trial: it is quite clearly not working.
The trial has been given enough time to determine that it is not successful and is damaging the city; I would urge the council to reassess the trial, listen to the views of many experienced business communities (we can’t all be wrong) and reopen the bridge.
The council will gain much credibility for accepting the fact that the trial has demonstrated that the city needs this bridge.
We need this problem resolved and we need to move on, to proceed with promoting this great city of ours and see that we capitalise on the visibility we will gain from the Tour de France Grand Départ next year, and work towards York becoming the “must visit” destination that it has always been.
- Frank Wood owns RA Braithwaite jewellers and is chairman of York Retail Forum
- For all our Lendal Bridge stories, click here