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Carlisle cafe owners hit out at street revamp - but others praise it

A street revamp short-listed for a national urban design award has been blamed for driving away customers from two Carlisle cafes.

Castle Street photo
Mary West from Chimes and Robbie Edgar from Cafe Sol

The £480,000 scheme for part of Castle Street was also recently praised by a leading design expert.

The city council-backed redevelopment involved repaving the street in tradition materials between Paternoster Row and St Mary’s Gate, while the footpaths were widened and reset with Lazonby sandstone.

The work has been recognised by Robert Huxford, one of the UK’s foremost authorities on the public realm.

But early opposition – particularly the loss of parking spaces – has resurfaced, with two cafe owners saying it has fuelled a fall in trade.

Chimes Cafe owner Mary West and Robbie Edgar, who has the nearby Cafe Sol, say the scheme has had a negative effect on business.

“It’s definitely harmed our business,” said Mary.

“A lot of our clientele are elderly. When people could park over the road they’d often just pop in for a coffee. Morning trade has gone and some Sunday trade has gone because customers who are not good at walking would park up and then come in.

“I know we’re in a recession but I reckon since they completed the work on Castle Street trade has gone down by 30 per cent.”

Robbie, 32, said he’d noticed a similar drop off in trade through the winter.

He said: “There’s just not enough footfall for the amount of pavement.

“Carlisle is place where people don’t want to pay to park. They want to park for an hour, nip into town for whatever, and they get out. City centres need traffic: that’s who they get and out. They don’t want to park and ride.”

Both Mary and Robbie believe they are entitled to a reduction in their business rate as a result of the fall in their trade.

But not all traders on the street are displeased with the redevelopment.

Mark Stokes, general manager of Hoopers, said: “I don’t feel that the pedestrianisation has been bad at all. It’s improved massively the look of the street.”

Despite an initial frustration from customers who were unable to park, the scheme has made the area more pedestrian-friendly and Hoopers is now drawing up plans for its own outside cafe, he said.

Councillor Ray Bloxham, who has responsibility with the city council for the environment, said: “I’ve just today walked along Castle Street and it looks gorgeous in the sunlight. There were quite a number of people sitting outside drinking coffees, having a continental style experience.

“I’m absolutely positive about what’s been done.”

A council spokeswoman added: “The national economic climate has resulted in a negative impact on a lot of businesses, at all levels.

“We continue to support local businesses as much as we can and are currently working alongside the city centre business sector to look into creating a Business Improvement District for Carlisle.

“This would be a real opportunity for businesses to influence how the city centre is promoted and managed.

“This will help to ensure that we remain competitive as a shopping destination.”


Have your say

I find the improvements to the street visually acceptable though wonder how it cost so much to consult on for two years to end up with some paving slabs on the road?

Also the benches that depict the Hadrians Wall route are running East to West from our perspective and are completely the wrong way around.

2 years consulting and they missed basic geography, what was the money spent on?

Posted by LD on 5 April 2012 at 13:39

cant see how there could be "quite a lot" of people sitting out as there are less than a dozen seats available "continental style" outside of the shops.....

Posted by curious on 4 April 2012 at 13:46

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