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'It's just farcical': Council U-turn on decision to close road after businesses complain

Diss Town Council has reversed a decision to close part of the town centre off, after shop owners warned it could spell the end for their businesses.

On Monday, as part of joint £30,000 plan by three councils to make the centre ‘covid secure’, St Nicholas Street was closed to motorists, forcing shoppers to park on the other side of town and dramatically reducing footfall for the predominantly independent businesses that make up the Heritage Triangle.

On Wednesday, the town council reversed the decision, saying that it “no longer feels necessary”.

"It's just farcical," said Pete Grimshaw, owner of Vision Emporium, who criticised the initial decision to restrict St Nicholas Street.
"It's just farcical," said Pete Grimshaw, owner of Vision Emporium, who criticised the initial decision to restrict St Nicholas Street.

Despite an online meeting between officials and a representative of Diss Business Forum prior to the decision, traders criticised the lack of consultation.

After the barrier closing the street went up on Monday morning – a day touted as the grand reopening of the economy – a number of business owners shut up shop and went home for the day, saying it was simply not worth staying open as the road restriction had made their stores too inaccessible.

Pete Grimshaw (pictured), who runs Vision Emporium in St Nicholas Street, said: “Everything was going fine until the barrier went up, then I went home because we simply weren’t getting any business at all.

“No traffic means that nobody was looking in our shop window. People were coming to the top of Market Lane, seeing the barrier, and going away – there was a lot of arms being raised.”

Alan Crowest, who ran AP Consultancy in nearby Cobbs Yard before retiring in 2018, said the initial decision reflected a legacy of the northern end of town being neglected by councils.

He said: “It’s keeping people away. People coming into the town are going to avoid that part – they’ll go to the supermarkets instead.

“I think it’s such a shame, and there’s absolutely no need for it. It irritates me why the various councils don’t think these things through.

“This isn’t the first time businesses in the north end of the town have felt let down by those in power – when they made Mere Street was one way in the 1980s, businesses complained that the lack of traffic would negatively impact their businesses.

“Ever since then, they haven’t cared about businesses there.”

On Wednesday, Diss Town Council reversed the decision, citing a lack of pedestrians in the area. In a statement, it said: “The anticipated numbers of pedestrians using this area have not materialised. Norfolk Constabulary was concerned about pedestrian and driver safety, balanced with the advantages of creating a pedestrianised area, so the traffic restriction was no longer deemed necessary.”

Despite being pleased with the reversal of the decision, business owners criticised a perceived lack of consultation.

Mr Grimshaw, 59, said: “It was a total lack of organisation and consultation. If they’d asked us, we would’ve said no, because these are our businesses that are affected – it’s just farcical.”

However, Sarah Richards, clerk at Diss Town Council, said: “They were involved in the process. We included everybody – the town, district and county council, as well as business representatives and a representative from Diss Business Forum – in a meeting on Zoom, which we thought was reasonable.”

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