Candidates meet disgruntled traders at business hustings to discuss Wyre high street's uncertain future
Plans to breathe new life into Cleveleys' "struggling" high street were put forward at a meeting with traders on Tuesday December 3.
Parking problems, litter and the new retail development at Norcross were also on the agenda as two parliamentary hopefuls made their pre-election pitches to businesses in the town.
Chris Webb, Labour candidate, and Paul Maynard, Conservative candidate, both for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, attended the hustings.
It was organised and chaired by Daniel Thornton, owner of Phillip's jewellers on Victoria Road West and current part-chair of Cleveleys association of traders, one of the retailers concerned about the future of the town centre.
The rivals were given the opportunity to speak to traders about their plans for Cleveleys high street.
Chris Webb said: "We've got empty shops, businesses struggling, and we need to rejuvenate our high street."
Some traders were concerned that their smaller businesses would not be able to afford Labour's proposed £10 per hour minimum wage, but Mr Webb assured them Labour intended to mitigate the extra costs of a higher wage.
He said: "By raising the wage we will lift people out of poverty, get more people off benefits, which will save the economy money in the long run to put back into small businesses."
Paul Maynard, who held the Conservative seat in Blackpool North and Cleveleys for the past 10 years, also addressed traders' concerns about the high street.
He said: "I understand the concern in the town when Tesco announced its decision to close, but the fact that Iceland did eventually come in is proof of our resilience.
"What we really want is more people with more money in their pockets, spending more locally."
Mr Maynard said he planned to review and restructure wider business rates, and attempt to "level the playing field" between physical shops and those that operate on the internet.
After hearing many requests from traders over the years, the consensus for a business improvement district could be explored, he added.
The litter enforcers who patrol the town centre were also of concern, as residents feared they were preventing people from revisiting the town.
When questioned about the enforcer's ability to obstruct or use physical contact towards the public, both candidates agreed this behaviour was "inappropriate" and should result in a 999 call.
Retailers were worried that there were no spaces for coaches to bring “much-needed” day-trippers to spend money in the town, and that the charges and length of time allowed for parking were discouraging shoppers from visiting.
Mr Webb stated his intentions for an increase in coach parking and longer parking times, and Mr Maynard suggested a potential "park and ride" system for visitors, and a possible voucher scheme where customers can redeem parking costs against their shopping.
The pedestrianisation of Victoria Road West was addressed, with Mr Maynard claiming he didn't oppose the idea, but there were a number of hurdles to face such as the current traffic system along the road.
Mr Webb thought the idea would attract more people to the town centre, and said it would be something he would look into pursuing.
The new Norcross retail site, planned to open in Summer 2020, was another worrying prospect for the business owners.
The site will have a new Marks and Spencer, Costa and Taco Bell along with 330 parking spaces for locals.
But Martin Hunns, owner of the Carousel Diner in Cleveleys and former chair of the Trader's Association, voiced his thoughts on how it would "take visitors out of Cleveleys because there will be free parking, it's killing the town."
Both candidates said they were "worried" about the Norcross site, with Mr Webb opposing the increase in traffic and strain on the surrounding dual carriageway, and Mr Maynard agreeing that "he would rather not see it, it will cause far too much congestion."
Green Party candidate for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Duncan Royle, and the Independent candidate Neil Holden were both unable to attend due to work commitments.
A spokesman for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Lib Dem candidate Sue Close said: "I can confirm that Sue did not attend as an invitation was not received.
"Sue would, however, like to express that she is aware of the situations with parking and business rates in Cleveleys and has great sympathy for the traders."