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The pilot scheme was introduced in November and saw the road shut from the clock tower to Victory Street.
It was hoped it would boost trade by encouraging pedestrians to shop locally – but many business owners said it was having the opposite effect and nothing was improving in the town.
A heated public meeting took place at Sheppey Leisure Complex, Sheerness, last Thursday.
More than 60 people packed into the cafe at the venue off Royal Road and it was announced the trial, which was supposed to continue until spring, would be cancelled.
Oxfam shop manager Mick Constable says he was losing about 80% trade on Saturdays, and his store isn’t even in the part of the road where it was closed. He believes he and businesses nearby were affected by the bus route diversion.
“People were getting off the bus in Millennium Way and going to the market and not bothering with the high street at all – it’s just not bringing customers in,” he said. “Quite a few traders were very upset and it was an angry meeting.
“There were a few members of the public there not happy, too.”
He said he thinks the problem with the high street is that it needs a bit of a facelift.
Acting chairman of the Town Team Andrew Deeley says they accept it was the wrong time of year to trial the closure and said they had hoped to do it last summer but it took longer than anticipated.
He believes it wasn’t just the road closure which hit the traders over the period and said Morrisons Neats Court and the ‘atrocious’ weather were also contributing factors.
However, he says he has spent a lot of time talking to traders and feels many of them realise there is a need to do something to try to boost footfall.
“But [we need] something different that will attract people who don’t normally come into town,” he said.
Mr Deeley says the Town Team will now start putting together summer activities.
He says there was a lot of support for market stalls in the road and for festivals to be put on – and the idea of having things staged in Broadway was also popular.
But he says it’s about retailers having the confidence to do something different.
“Because it was the wrong time of year, they didn’t see the benefit,” he said.
“If something different happens they will see the benefit from it.
“They need confidence and the only way they will get that is if people do support the Island’s main town centre.
“We have got to give those people who are heading off Sheppey something to come into the town for.”
Mr Deeley says they are also looking at some sort of reward scheme, plus ways to make the most of the trade from holidaymakers.
Another meeting will take place at Sheppey Leisure Complex on Thursday, March 13, at 6pm. Anyone is welcome to go along with suggestions and ideas.
See Islanders’ suggestions on the Times Guardian Facebook page.
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