The planters installed last month in Reepham Market Place are to be removed in two weeks, following pressure from residents and town centre traders.
The decision was made after lengthy discussion during last night’s Reepham Town Council meeting (Thursday 17 September), with a proposal by Cllr Paul Mitchell being passed by a 7-1 majority.
This will include consultation with town centre businesses that could possibly accommodate any of the planters without comprising parking and/or safety.
The closing date for requesting one or more planters is Friday 2 October, after which any unadopted planters, planted or unplanted, will be removed.
The physical barriers were originally installed in mid-August as part of a Broadland District Council initiative to encourage shopping by creating safe spaces for shoppers to observe social distancing while queueing to enter some town centre stores.
Following disapproval from traders, who said they were not consulted, the planters were hastily moved four days later, mainly to the middle of the central reservations, taking up fewer parking spaces.
Most of the public complaints concerned parking issues and the appearance of the planters, with several people saying they looked like coffins.
Presenting the results of a petition to Broadland, which has gained almost 500 signatures, local resident Nick Bundock noted that during the coronavirus lockdown, shoppers in the Market Place had acted with intelligence and commonsense with regard to social distancing.
He said the planters represented an obstacle to pedestrians and cars, especially at night, adding: “The Market Place has no yellow lines, pavements or a one-way system. The planters are an ugly, unwanted and unnecessary intrusion. We don’t want them anywhere.”
Town council chairman Les Paterson argued that the planters should be returned to their original positions, stating there is a misconception amongst the public that parking in the town centre is currently a problem.
He reminded councillors that the Covid-19 situation is worsening nationwide with infection rates rising, along with traffic returning to near-normal levels and increased deliveries to stores in line with changing shopping habits.
However, other councillors argued that the original purpose of the planters had now receded and that they had been placed far too late. Moreover, they represented a safety hazard, particularly for the less abled.
It was recognised, however, that there is a long-term need to make the Market Place a more attractive feature and not just function as a car park.
Addressing the meeting, Tig Armstrong, assistant director for economic growth at Broadland District Council, admitted that his team were slow to act in its plans for Reepham and apologised for the way this was handled.
Broadland’s economic development team has offered to work with the town council to look at ways of improving the appearance of the Market Place to make it more attractive to residents and visitors, which would hopefully encourage trade.
This could include such things as the strategic use of trees and plants, the installation of benches and a one-way traffic system around the Market Place roadway.
Mr Armstrong added that a review of parking would be undertaken in all market towns across the district.
See our earlier stories:
- Petition for removal of Market Place planters
- Market Place planters moved in compromise after protests
- Retailers ‘not consulted’ as planters installed to protect shoppers