I’m standing to be Rothwell’s Labour councillor and part of my vision for Rothwell is to have full pedestrianisation, a safe and welcoming town centre space and a town craft and produce market.
The online survey I carried out shows that 71% of people want Commercial Street to be fully pedestrianised. My idea for a craft and produce market on Commercial Street is supported by 85% of people. Since I announced the idea in Rothwell News (which should now have been delivered to every home in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton – let me know if you haven’t had yours) I’ve had lots of people contact me to say how much they support the idea.
When I was a councillor I received lots of complaints about cars and vans using Commercial Street. I knew people wanted it to be fully pedestrianised, so was delighted when almost three quarters of people said this was their favourite option. A small number of people (just 15%) want to fully open the street to traffic. Even fewer people think what we have at the moment is acceptable as just 14% want to maintain the current status with the street partially open to traffic.
Like many local high streets Commercial Street will struggle to get back on its feet without backing, determination and positive partnership working including with the council. I want to see more done to turn it into a thriving place again. A regular local farmers market with craft and produce stalls will bring people back to the centre of Rothwell which will also benefit local traders as people see what great shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants we have. In other local centres we are seeing a surge in outdoor coffee shops and al fresco dining, which is what people want and isn’t expected to stop even when in-door dining is allowed again.
I’ve long believed that fully pedestrianising Commercial Street is a good idea as it means it will be like a proper local centre where people can walk, chat, eat and drink safely.
Unfortunately the Rothwell Liberal Democrat councillors went against the wishes of local people by siding with a giant American owned company to give special permission for Boots’ vans to flout the limited restrictions we already had. Boots is a gigantic company that sends its profits back to the USA. I’d have had more sympathy if it was to support one of our unique local independent businesses who don’t get the same advantages.
In April the Labour Party launched the Rebuilding Our High Streets Commission to explore ideas for the future of local high streets and bring together experts who want to listen to what local people want. It’s also a key pledge of Tracy Brabin who is standing as Labour’s candidate for West Yorkshire mayor. She has pledged to support our local businesses and champion the regional economy.
Despite being ranked higher for economic and social need Rothwell missed out on money from the government’s £1 billion ‘Towns Fund’ which gave £24 million to Morley to invest in revitalising the town centre and local community projects.
There is so much that could be done to support local traders and protect local jobs, not just on Commercial Street, but also in the other parts of Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton where we have lots of amazing independent local businesses.
Local people have also commented to me on what a good idea it is to call for the Rothwell Children’s day celebrations to be brought back. Local children have been impacted by the pandemic in ways we couldn’t have imagined as children, including not being able to go to school for so long and being away from their friends and family. They have been little heroes too! Let’s show them we care by holding a special day for them.