I DO hope that those empowered to consider, decide upon and execute this proposal [to route buses through St Ives town centre] do it wisely.
For many town centres are at a turning (if not crisis) point at the moment, and St Ives is no exception.
Some will benefit by executing this proposal, and others lose, particularly in the area of employment. Those working in the many offices and non-retail premises will enjoy the benefit of bus stops close to their place of work, if they chose to travel to work this way. But those engaged in retail may potentially lose their jobs.
Retail in St Ives is generally divided into three parts: market stalls, browsing shops and specialists shops. If buses were to be routed through the town centre, through Market Hill and on towards Hill Rise, many parts of this route would have to be widened to accommodate these large vehicles – 50 per cent of market stalls and 50 per cent of short-term parking will have to be removed.
So 50 per cent of market traders will lose their jobs, and this loss of market stalls will have a knock-on effect, since many who come into town on market days won’t bother to do so if there are fewer stalls to browse. This in turn will affect footfall in the browsing-type shops and of course render them liable to job losses or complete closure.
Specialist shops will be affected by the loss of short-term parking - computer shops, for example, where most customers when purchasing a computer would rather pull up nearby to load all those boxes into their car boot, rather than struggle home with them on a bus. Those shops might have to close completely.
We already have evidence of these happenings when fairs and other events occupy the town centre. Market stalls are banned, browsing shops might gain a few low cost sales, and specialist shops often close altogether due to lack of business. Most shops can cope with this situation two or three times a year, but not for 365 days – it will wreck St Ives as a shopping destination.
One big problem is the councillors and an apathetic electorate. St Ives councillors have no vested interest in the town centre: they do not receive any of the business rates paid by businesses, so their income is unaffected by any changes they might make. And, since some are only councillors to puff their chests in a look-at-me fashion, I would appeal to those who have a sense of moral duty to weigh up the facts carefully.
The people who can have most effect, of course, are the electorate, but with apathy and distaste of elected officials being so low, it’s unlikely the ballot box will have much effect.
St Ives is one of the few remaining market towns still working. I believe it should stay that way.
I would prefer that we saved jobs for the majority, rather than increase profits for the bus companies.