Roadworks blamed for ‘fewer shoppers’

Festive shopper numbers 'have fallen' and (below) roadworks around the site of the new Central Business District development.
Festive shopper numbers 'have fallen' and (below) roadworks around the site of the new Central Business District development.
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TRADERS have dubbed the Christmas shopping season “a nightmare” and blamed town centre roadworks and a lack of parking for the shocking conditions.

And some business leaders said the trend towards online shopping was being exacerbated by the fact shoppers were being put off coming into town by long delays caused by improvement works and not being able to find a parking space when they got into town.

Roadworks around the site of the new Central Business District development.

Roadworks around the site of the new Central Business District development.

Mark Adams, partner at A and B Christie jewellers, on Corporation Street, said: “There’s a big concern about roadworks. They (the council) seem to have made it as hard as possible to get into town and you just question their timing.

“There just hasn’t been the business we’d expect and driving in myself it’s very difficult to get into town.

“Overall we’ve had a pretty good year but a good Christmas is pretty critical to that.

“But takings are down, noticeably down.”

Catherine Simpson, manager at the Who toy shop, on Victoria Street, added: “It’s dead, we’re doing about 100 per cent more online.

“People want to shop more online, the weather doesn’t help things and to be honest Blackpool hasn’t got much to offer people.

“The congestion problems contribute and the lack of car parking too is a big factor as well to be honest.”

Carol Grey, co-owner of Undergowby, on Dickson Road, North Shore, said: “We’re finding it very dead at the minute.

“Some days it’s great and other days nobody comes in.”

Danny Brown, supervisor at G2 Lifestyle, Church Street, said: “It’s been alright, not the busiest.

“I suppose people are shopping online a lot more.”Dennis Taylor, owner of Taylor’s Western Wear, Bond Street, South Shore, said parking was the biggest issue for him. He added: “This Christmas has been a disaster.

“Bond Street has been forgotten. There are around 200 winter parking spaces less than usual.

“I haven’t had a single customer today, and I only had one on Tuesday, it’s a complete disaster.”

One national department store said it was bucking the trend however with Debenhams in the Houndshill Shopping Centre saying it had had a bumper seasonal period – one which staff only
 expected to get better.

Store manager Graham Dickinson said: “There’s a Christmas buzz and people are in good spirits.

“A lot of the gift products are selling really well.

“As it gets nearer to Christmas online shopping isn’t as popular because they can’t get the products delivered in time.”

Houndshill manager Debs Lancelot added: “Our car park is fully open and centre management have invested £1.5m into the car park with the refurbishment to include enhanced lighting and increased security measures which make the centre an even more secure environment.

“We are also trading until 8pm every day this week to help customers avoid peak travelling times.”

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Shoppers’ views

SHOPPERS in Blackpool town centre agreed the pre-Christmas rush was not as busy as it usually seemed.

And many said they were turning to the computer rather than making the effort to travel into town.

Billy Ashmore, 17, from Blackpool, said: “It is quieter because it’s not the season for Blackpool. For shopping I think it’s like any town centre on a Saturday afternoon though.”

Hannah Walker, 23, from Waterloo Road, South Shore, added: “People are doing a lot online now instead.

“I’ve done all of mine on the internet apart from a couple of bits.

“It’s a lot easier and cheaper as well online, and you can get it delivered the next day.”

Lucy Holmes, 18, also from Waterloo Road, agreed, saying: “You know definitely when you’re going to get something when you order it and you don’t have to rush.”

Abigail Lacey, 17, from Finchley Road, North Shore, said: “I’ve got loads to do.

“The town centre’s bad and I don’t like shopping here.”

Georgia Thorley, 18, from South Shore, said: “When you come in in the week it’s easier because it’s quiet but I wouldn’t want to be doing it on a Saturday.”

But some shoppers blamed the financial situation nationally for the lack of business.

Sheila Pickering, 61, had travelled to Blackpool from Lincolnshire for an annual Christmas shopping break and said the town seemed quieter than usual.

She said: “It doesn’t seem as busy. It’s the same everywhere – I think it’s to do with the economy, people haven’t got the money.”

Friend Carol Newton, 64, also from Lincolnshire, added: “We always come here for Christmas shopping but trade seems slow.”

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Highways ‘better’

IT might not seem like it to disgruntled motorists – but Blackpool’s roads are improving.

The town has been named the most improved in the country when it comes to the condition of the highways – with 8.6 per cent more people satisfied with them this year, compared to 2011.

Figures from the National Highways and Transport (NHT) 2012 survey show 31 per cent of respondents are happy with the condition of the roads, compared to 22.4 per cent the previous year.

Blackpool is also the most improved area when it comes to the time taken to complete roadworks with around half of people satisfied with the way roadworks are managed, compared to just over 42 per cent last year.

The resort also scored well when it came to providing people with advanced warning of roadworks, signposting diversions and providing information helplines.

The improvements follow the launch of Project 30 in July 2011 which will see a £30m investment over four years in Blackpool’s roads and pavements.

However, disruption from Project 30 work has coincided with road closures linked to the £220m Central Business District, while all the town’s traffic signals are also being replaced as part of the street lighting private finance initiative.

Coun Fred Jackson, the council’s cabinet member for transport, urged people to be patient and said a number of initiatives were in the pipeline to improve links between the north and south of the town.

He defended the decision to continue roadworks over the festive period, saying to postpone them or slow them down would risk the funding.

Coun Jackson added: “We’re trying to be a year-round destination so it is very difficult to find a time of year which is not inconvenient to someone.

“We are currently carrying out a review of the town centre to see where the congestion is taking place.

“One of the difficulties we have is Blackpool’s roads were designed at a time when there were a lot fewer cars on the road.

“When work has finished on the Talbot Gateway central business district it will be a lot better for residents because there will be more two-way streets rather than the one-way routes we have at present.

“We are also looking at using Better Bus funding to speed up public transport.”

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