Holmfirth retailers urged to compromise over town centre parking

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporter  

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Victoria Street in Holmfirth, where highways engineers want to ban parking on one side of the road. Traders say it will make deliveries impossible. (Photo: Andy Catchpool)

Retailers in Holmfirth say they face ruin because of plans to restrict town centre parking, which will impact on deliveries.

But transport chiefs, who have come up with a congestion-buster for the town’s narrow streets, say a compromise is needed in order to finalise a plan that releases millions of pounds in funding.

The current situation, which pits retailers against each other, has been described as “seemingly intractable”.

But local councillors who are fighting to stop shops closing say the scheme on the table risks putting people out of work.

Kirklees Council’s proposed Holmfirth Town Action Plan aims to ease congestion, improve journey times, create better access for residents, workers and business owners, and enhance the town as a tourist destination.

The £4m project, to be paid for with money from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), involves banning some parking on one of the town’s main streets.

Retailers fighting the plan say reduced parking will impact on deliveries, which in turn will impact weekly trade. One said his takings could drop by almost half.

The row, which has rumbled on for two years, emerged again at a meeting of the council’s Economy and Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Panel (Mar 4).

Transport chiefs were urged to look at accessing other pots of cash that were not linked to congestion easing.

Cllr Nigel Patrick (Con, Holme Valley South) said there was “little point” spending millions on a scheme “that closes shops and puts people out of work”.

He warned that banks and other businesses had already exited Holmfirth and the town could ill-afford to lose more.

He said: “Regeneration is not about sacrificing more shops to closure. It is about putting measures in place to attract businesses and growth.

“We cannot put ourselves in a situation where the choice is to close the shops or take the money. There are other sources of government regeneration funding available that we can apply for.”

The council’s head of major transport projects, Keith Bloomfield, said that in trying to help pedestrians, cyclists and people in cars, as well as taking account of public transport, “something has to give”.

He said plans had gone out to the public and to the town’s business forum for consultation three times.

He said there was “a bit of a dilemma” over the siting of a loading bay on Victoria Street as if the space was created on both sides “we would not be able to fit the traffic in”.

Currently there is wrangling over which side of the street should get the loading bay – and how it will affect deliveries if they have to be carried by hand across two lanes of carriageway.

A bakery and newsagent want it on one side. A brewery, pub and live venue want it on the other. Engineers are seeking to “appease” both.

Bloomfield said Victoria Street was “heavily trafficked” and was blocked by “unfettered” parking.

He added: “We’ve got narrow footways along Victoria Street where pedestrians most of the time are confronted by vehicles parked on the footway [with people] nipping in for something from the bakery [or] the newsagent’s. We can’t have that situation.”

He said the scheme would also serve to “reimagine” and start to regenerate Holmfirth by helping the nearby car park to be used as a pop-up events space or a “market of the future”.

Senior councillor Peter McBride, who said a previous plan had been dropped because the people of Holmfirth didn’t want it, said the idea that something would be imposed on the town was “absolutely wrong”.

He said the new plan was “stretching the limits” of criteria laid down by WYCA for its funding.

“I’m happy to do that to try and include everybody but fundamentally we’ve got an almost intractable situation and a compromise is required.

“There’s no evidence of a compromise so far.

“Frankly there’ll come a point possibly where West Yorkshire will say ‘Kirklees couldn’t make its mind up, so we’ll withdraw the possibility of the money’.

“That’s the thing that worries me. I don’t have the ability to impose any scheme but the point is we do need a degree of compromise here to be able to achieve something and which would keep the majority of the shopkeepers reasonably content.”