FSB brands Heywood bus lane proposals

Local News 28 Mar 2024

A major new road scheme being considered for Heywood town centre to make it more accessible would have the opposite effect and cause gridlock, the UK’s largest business organisation has warned transport bosses.

Plans for the project, which form part of the Heywood Town Centre Masterplan aimed at revitalising the town and boosting its connections to Manchester city centre and beyond, were on display at the town’s library earlier in March, with the local community invited along to see what’s being tabled.

The proposals would ban cars from one of the main arterial routes through the town centre by making Lance Corporal Stephen Shaw Way a bus only route, reduce the number of on-street parking bays to make way for cycle lanes, and force all non-bus traffic to detour through various other routes.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has now written to transport chiefs at Transport for Greater Manchester to express concern at the proposals, which it says would have significant impact on footfall and businesses in the town centre. 

FSB Development Manager for Greater Manchester, Robert Downes, said: “I have spoken to a number of businesses located in the town centre who, like FSB, have serious concerns about what’s being proposed. While I appreciate nothing has been set in stone, the concept of a system exclusively for buses has triggered alarm with many of the town’s businesses.

Understandably, the fear is that such material change would cause widespread traffic issues across the town centre, triggering significant operational issues for the shops based there, and ultimately harming their ability to continue trading

“Their concerns – which I share – are largely around the gridlock the measures proposed would undoubtedly create, by reducing to zero the number of cars able to freely access the main route through the town centre and shoehorning them onto surrounding roads. They also have concerns about stock deliveries.

He continued: “The measures being proposed naturally reduce the capacity of the local road network quite substantially, rerouting all vehicles other than buses on to other routes and would without doubt cause huge disruption and delay for anyone wanting to either access amenities there, or those simply passing through.

There also appears to be significant cause for concern among the residents at what this type of disruption will mean for them, from pollution caused by increased standing traffic, to the extra time and cost of having to get from A-B using log-jammed, non-linear routes.” 

FSB research published in March as part of its quarterly Small Business Index report, suggested 1-in-8 hospitality businesses believe they may be forced to close by year end. Retail businesses were similarly pessimistic about trading levels with consumer spending power at rock bottom following interest rate rises and energy bills still eroding household budgets.

He added: “It is no secret that retail and hospitality businesses have been struggling in recent years, particularly since the pandemic, with consumer trends changing, and ‘working from home’ starving day-time economy businesses of vital trade. Margins for many of these types of business are already wafer thin, and even a small change in consumer habits could result in serious harm to previously viable businesses.”

Local traders are also growing increasingly concerned at the plans. Stuart Crawford, who runs Crawford Domestic Appliances in the town, said local business owners were fearful of the plans. “We have seen what bus lanes and cycle routes have done to nearby Castleton – it’s killed businesses, and we don’t want it to happen here,” he said.

We don’t even have a congestion problem here at the moment, traffic is usually quite free flowing, but we will have one if they push this through. It will cause gridlock and inevitably shoppers will just stop coming. I can’t imagine why they think this will help the town, it will kill it.”

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