A LEADING Penrith business owner has said the town has won a “battle, but not the war” after Cumbria County Council announced changes to its controversial town centre road restrictions.

Dan Harding, owner of the Foundry 34 hotel, Angel Lane Chippie and the Sandgate Friery and a Penrith Business Improvement District director, welcomed the county council’s announcement yesterday that Middlegate and Devonshire Street were be reopened to all vehicles, though restrictions are still in place on King Street.

The closures had been put in place to help accommodate social distancing among pedestrians, but many in the Penrith business community condemned the closures as a major threat to town centre trade.

“It has to be said that the county council had people’s safety in mind,” Mr Harding said.

“But with this approach, they’ve been overzealous.”

Mr Harding, who organised a well-attended protest in Penrith town centre last weekend over the closures, welcomed the change to the road restrictions but hopes the county council will go further and put a one-way system in place for southbound traffic, while continuing to divert northbound traffic via Princes Street.

“We’ve won a battle, but we’ve not won the war,” Mr Harding said.

“There’s still phase two of the reopening to be completed.”

Mr Harding had earlier this week organised a second town centre protest for today, which he says now, following yesterday’s announcement will instead be transformed into an event promoting local businesses.

“We want to change it into more of a campaign to shop local, after the week shops have had, where they’ve seen some of the worst trading figures they’ve ever had,” he said.

“One shop owner has told me that for the first time in 47 years, they’ve had days this week where they’ve not taken a penny.”

Mr Harding said this was in stark contrast to the week prior to the road closures.

“The previous week, when some of the retail businesses opened, we had a very successful start.

“Businesses were reporting better than expected takings.

“Then when the council imposed these so-called emergency road blockades, trade pretty much dove off a cliff.

“Most people have seen in excess of a 50 per cent reduction in trade.”

Mr Harding added that he wished to thank everyone who had been involved in discussions with the county council on how best to resolve the issue.

“We’re off to a positive start, and now is the time to support Penrith.

Cumbria County councillor David Whipp, chairman of Eden Local Committee, expressed his gratitude to residents and visitors for their 'patience and comments over the last week'.

“These updated measures should help ensure that our visitors are able to shop in our town safely, and enable the businesses to open and thrive,” he said.

“I’d ask that everyone respects the temporary restrictions which have been put in place. These will continue to be reviewed in line with government guidance and feedback.”

Councillor Scott Jackson, deputy mayor for Penrith Town council, added that he was pleased that all involved parties were able to “work together” to review the situation.

“The changes that have been made are welcomed and it is good that we will continue to work in partnership to review the situation weekly.

“Although there is some reduced on street parking in Middlegate, disabled parking, loading bays and the taxi rank will remain and all off street car parks are free until the end of August.

“These revised plans allow people to pop in and shop quickly if they so wish, supports our town centre businesses and allows safe pedestrian movement.”

Stephen Macauley from Penrith Chamber of Trade and Commerce, welcomed the decision made today.

“We’d like to see business back to normal as soon as possible, encourage a return to the High Street and avoid any further roadblocks to recovery.”

Darren Broad from Penrith Business Improvement District said the group was “delighted with the decision.

“We would like to reassure shoppers that Penrith is open for business.

“With free parking until the end of August, and a great range of local, independent shops as well as national retailers, we’d love our local community to shop local and support our traders.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged wherever possible to make use of the free car parking which is available in Eden District Council car parks in an attempt to reduce the volume of vehicles travelling through the centre of Penrith. This is especially important for areas of the road around the ‘narrows’ so that pedestrians are able to maintain social distancing measures without stepping off the pavement into the road.

Additionally, shoppers are asked to ‘follow the arrows through the narrows’ and walk in one direction, on both sides of the road which faces the traffic. Those walking into town are asked to walk through Little Dockray.