Bypass is hitting high street trade’

PUBLISHED: 11:55 27 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:34 06 May 2010

John Aitken in part of his shop which he was forced to reduce in size after a loss in customer base

John Aitken in part of his shop which he was forced to reduce in size after a loss in customer base

FOUR months on from the opening of the Baldock bypass and the consequences are beginning to take effect for some of the local shopkeepers. One shop owner, John Aitken, claims his customer base has plummeted by around 70 per cent, forcing him to close part

FOUR months on from the opening of the Baldock bypass and the consequences are beginning to take effect for some of the local shopkeepers.

One shop owner, John Aitken, claims his customer base has plummeted by around 70 per cent, forcing him to close part of his premises.

For six years Mr Aitken was the proud owner of Truly Scrumptious in High Street but feels he was forced to reduce the size of his traditional sweet shop and diversify into selling clothes in an attempt to grab the attention of dwindling customers.

He said: "It's a lot of business to lose. It happened virtually overnight when the bypass happened.

"There's nothing to attract people now. We haven't got a lake, a cathedral or a landmark."

The businessman, who has renamed his shop Change of a Dress, had a slot on Chiltern FM with Cllr Ian Knighton last week in a bid to air his views.

Speaking to The Comet, Cllr Knighton said: "It's very early days but the bypass has had a tremendous effect on the town. Before it was a bottle-neck and we had 21,000 to 22,000 vehicles going through Baldock every day. Since the bypass we have only 12,000. There was only about three or four per cent who actually stopped to buy anything anyway."

And it appears not all retailers are feeling the pinch as a result of the bypass.

Haji Momand, manager of Market One in High Street said: "It's definitely made a difference with the flow of traffic. The bypass has not affected trade as much as I thought it would. I think it will have a positive effect."

According to Mr Aitken, the lack of parking in Baldock is also an issue that could create further problems for shopkeepers.

He said: "Those who would still like to come here can't park so they don't bother. Why can't the council put in a temporary solution now? It will take two or three months to discuss the parking issue and we may not survive that long. Its imperative the council does something now."

A possible solution is to introduce limited parking in certain areas to prevent commuters leaving their cars in town all day and catching a train.

North Herts District Council is ploughing £2m into a regeneration project planned for Baldock town centre in a bid to look at new ways to attract people to the area.

The Highways Agency, responsible for building the bypass, is also putting £750,000 into the spending pot.

Cllr Knighton said: "Car parking is one of the great issues and that's one of the first things that will be tackled. Baldock is one place where people should be able to stop and shop.


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