By the end of last week more than 1,500 people had signed an ongoing petition calling for Todmorden Town Deal proposals to create the space by reducing parking at Bramsche Square to be be reconsidered.
Petitions are at many Todmorden Market stalls and businesses around Todmorden town centre, for which Bramsche Square is the major car park.
Todmorden Town Deal Board and Calderdale Council both say proposals are not yet completed and there will be more chances for people to have their say.
A spokesperson for the businesses, Mark Hebbes, said when complete the petition would be presented to Calderdale Council, and traders were also concerned about another project earmarked by the board for an Enterprise building which might include cafes and eateries on the ground floor.
But the main issue was the threat to parking, which traders believe is essential to allow people to shop easily, including elderly and less able customers, he said.
“We as business owners and traders are very worried by the proposal.
“We are concerned to how business and market traders were not consulted or involved in any of the proposals.
“We have raised our concerns at the Town Deal open day and feel we were not listened to.
“To remove half of the parking in this area will almost certainly damage and even close business in our town,” said Mr Hebbes.
Businesses say the petition has been signed not just by local people but visitors from other towns who like the shopping experience Todmorden offers.
Todmorden Town Deal Board Chair, Pam Warhurst, said the recent open day was only the first of a number of conversations the board would be having with the community and businesses were welcome at a Todconnect event on June 1 at which representatives from both Public Places in the Heart of Todmorden and the Enterprise Centre projects will share more about plans, discuss early stage proposals and listen to views from the business community.
“No decisions have been made on detailed options and layout and these will be brought forward for all to comment on and have their say as they evolve,” she said.
Making the area more pedestrian and cyclist friendly and increasing public transport use against the backdrop of the climate crisis were part of the plans, said Ms Warhurst.
“But whatever the outcome, bays for people with mobility issues will always be a priority,” she said.
The town was allocated £17.5 million for a range of projects to improve the town and business plans have to be worked up by August.
Phil Wagster, of Phil’s Market Barber shop in Todmorden Market Hall, said he had yet to speak to anyone who thinks it is a good idea, and if Todmorden was trying to position itself as a tourist town, lack of parking would be an issue.
“How are independent traders in the town going to compete on an equal footing with supermarkets and large stores all with ample free parking?
“You’ve got local traders with very little free parking and now there is talk about the car park going,” he said, adding he would like to see a “free hour” of parking to help businesses.
Mr Wagster said the Enterprise building might just end up moving business from one building, the Market Hall, to another – a similar situation had happened in Rochdale, he said.
Ms Warhurst said consultations throughout the last decade and beyond have identified a need for more green spaces and an attractive town centre where people want to spend more time, meet others, and enable the town to host events and festivals successfully and safely.
“We of course understand concerns people have about a reduction in parking spaces, but with the climate crisis we must reflect the need to reduce carbon with its additional health benefits.
“We have an opportunity to realise the often hidden and underestimated economic and social benefits of well-designed flexible pedestrian areas that increase footfall and time spent in the town centre, all of which contributes to spend locally,” she said.
The Enterprise centre was planned to strengthen the retail offer in the town not undermine it, said Ms Warhurst. “The future of local independent businesses is important to us,” she said.
Calderdale Council has an overseeing role over projects included in the Town Deal programme and the authority’s Assistant Director for Economy, Housing and Investment, Kate McNicholas, said the £17.5 million funding for projects ranging from the Hippodrome Theatre to proposals to enhance Centre Vale Park and neighbouring Fielden Hall will transform the town for the benefit of the whole community, including residents, businesses and visitors.
“The Deal proposals have been put together by a partnership made up of public, private and community sector representatives, based on consultation with local people, and I must emphasise that some of the projects are still in the early stages of development.
“I do understand that people have concerns about the potential impact on parking.
“We want to hear from you through the consultations that will be taking place over the next few weeks,” she said.