Hitchin businesses say town’s transport plans “will kill every shop”

BUSINESSES have slammed transport plans proposed for a town centre, with one shop owner claiming it would “kill every shop” in one of the roads affected.

Hermitage Road-based Expressions Bridlewear, Kenmore Interiors, Footsteps and The Town Fryer have all condemned consultants AECOM’s five-year scheme on behalf of North Herts District Council (NHDC) and Herts County Council (HCC), which recommends making Hermitage Road a bus stop hub, allowing permit-only traffic in Brand Street, Hermitage Road and Bancroft.

The Hitchin Urban Transport Plan, which also includes proposals for new pedestrian crossings, improved paths to the industrial area and pedestrianisation of the High Street, is currently under public consultation until October 15, but many of the Hermitage Road businesses The Comet contacted were unaware of the plans.

“I’m not happy for them to block this road because the traffic going through here is immense and we get a lot of trade from that,” said the owner of Expressions Bridlewear, Carole Wilding.

“If they do block this road it will kill every shop in Hermitage Road. I’m totally against it.”

Bryn Whittaker, owner of Kenmore Interiors, said: “If this is the case it would be absolutely devastating. It would probably ruin my business.”

Footsteps’ Alison Moss said: “I didn’t know anything about it.

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“It will make a difference as people who come here can stop and park for half an hour. If they can’t come into the road it will affect business.”

Roger Murphy, manager at The Town Fryer, dismissed the plans.

He said: “It’s so ridiculous it’s just not going to happen. It will all get washed down the River Hiz.”

Responding to concerns, town centre manager Keith Hoskins said: “We certainly agree that Hermitage Road needs to be improved in terms of local transport.

“If we stop traffic going through it though where are we going to route it to? I would imagine that’s more of a long-term intent of the county council’s but as each individual scheme comes forward we will respond to it appropriately.”

A HCC spokesman said: “As well as promoting the proposals in the local press, with interviews on local radio and at two public events, there is a large amount of information on our website and in local libraries and council offices about the consultation and our future plans.

“However, we appreciate that the plan is a lengthy, technical document and some people won’t relish the thought of wading through so much information so we’ve also produced a questionnaire to make responding to the consultation as straightforward as possible.”

The questionnaire can be filled in online at www.hertsdirect.org/hitchinutp or you can call Hertfordshire Highways on 0300 123 4047 to request a hard copy or to comment on the plans.