Penrith shopkeepers are hoping that the Penrith Strategic Masterplan will lead to an increased footfall in the town and improve the vitality of the high street.
One of the Masterplan’s key aims to support the town centre and traders hope that its emphasis on increasing affordable housing will also boost the number of people using Penrith’s shops.
Stuart Harper, owner of Harper’s Toymaster in Middlegate, described the plan as ‘very bold’ adding: “People come to Penrith and say it is lovely to see the independent shops, but there are less than there used to be. The truth is that Penrith is suffering because of a drop in footfall. People are not coming into town, not coming into the shops and are moving away. We have to do something to put the vitality back into the town.”
Mr Harper and his son, Alastair, said they had their concerns about some aspects of the Masterplan such as the possibility of some homes being built within woods on the Beacon and would like to see more options for where new houses could be situated.
“I agree with the idea of a M6 junction 41 employment site plan very much and can see how the Masterplan is meeting a need with affordable housing in Penrith,” said Alastair.
Over the road at the Town Hall Treasures, jewellery store owner Vanessa Aked said she could see the logic of how an increasing population could help Penrith’s high street, but wanted to see a discussion around reducing traffic in the town centre.
“I think pedestrianisation could work, but I’m not sure how popular an idea that is. It’s certainly a nice experience in other towns and they cope by restricting deliveries to before a certain time. Perhaps Penrith could have a delivery hub so lorries wouldn’t have to come through the middle of town and smaller vehicles could bring goods to the shops,” she said.
Tracy Goulding at Lakeland Music said she hoped as discussions developed around the town centre that parking could be addressed.
“Parking is clearly an issue as I am always speaking to people in the shop who say they have rush back to their car,” she said.
Parking is an issue too for Alan Reading, owner of J&J Graham, who wants to see the Masterplan include options for long term parking for people working in the town.
“It would be a simple thing to have all day parking for those that work in the town centre on land somewhere that people could walk from into the centre,” he said.
“I can’t say I agree with everything in the Masterplan, but we need to address the issue of people moving to Carlisle because they can’t afford to live in Penrith and I can see the logic that an increase in the population means increased footfall and means more business for our shops,” he added.
Research carried out for the Penrith Strategic Masterplan indicates that the 5,560 new homes it envisages could mean an extra 4,760 people visiting the town centre shops each week and an injection of £35-£40m into the local economy in today’s prices, supporting around 400 jobs across Eden in a mixture of activities.
To put this in context, in 2013 the catchment area for Penrith town centre spent around £160m on convenience retail goods
Penrith’s current pedestrian footfall data across the town centre shows 11,200 users in March 2018 based on footfall counters. If Penrith’s population is to increase by 85% by 2050 the footfall in the existing town centre could rise by 43% or to 16,000. This could also depend on retail trends such as increases in internet shopping etc.
Eden District Council’s Chief Executive Rose Rouse, said: “I am pleased to hear how Penrith traders and businesses are engaging with the Masterplan public engagement process, adding: “Support for the town centre is a key element of developing the Masterplan and we want to hear people’s ideas and suggestions on this issue over the coming weeks.
“The Masterplan also envisages improvements in the infrastructure for pedestrian and cyclists in Penrith town centre and we have also acknowledged that the layout and appearance of the area surrounding the train station can be improved. We are working with Cumbria County Council to look at how we can improve transport and congestion issues around Penrith for the future. This traffic modelling will be updated in 2019 and for the three proposed new settlements some two months later.
“We believe that working alongside the Penrith Chamber of Trade and Business Improvement Districts, plans can be put in place that encourage the link between the new Beacon Villages and employment land over the course of the development of the Masterplan so the town centre benefits from the developments,” said Rose.