Worcestershire County Council and Malvern Hills District Council are in the dock on a charge of letting down the traders of Tenbury over the bridge closure. Adrian Kibbler summarises the case for and against.
It has been known for a decade that the Teme Bridge needed repairs but by failing to mend the roof while the sun shone, the county council had no choice but to do the work in the worst economic climate for 80 years.
The decision to undertake it this January was made nine months ago but no proper preparation was made and it was not until November that £50,000 was made available to help traders.
A loyalty scheme that is nothing more than a two prize monthly raffle was organised and launched after Christmas – missing the autumn and Christmas events when there were large numbers of people in the town.
Loyalty cards and stickers were not available to some traders. Any marketing outside the town centre was limited and a mailing to surrounding villages was only sent a week after the bridge shut.
As a result it so far appears that the main beneficiaries of the scheme are those people who would have shopped in the town anyway not those from outside who needed to be incentivised to come into Tenbury.
The temporary car park was always going to be too small and with no ticketing too many spaces were occupied all day leaving no space for shoppers.
Alternative parking at a nearby nursery was refused and a potentially larger car park on the old showground site rejected although it is no more vulnerable to flooding than the chosen parking area that was covered with tarmac.
Finally, even Chris Dell, the man recruited to mastermind the public relations for the closure publicly described it as ‘a disaster.’
The bridgeis an ancient monument that periodically needs repair, so there was no choice.
After consulting the town the work was scheduled for the least inconvenient time of year and to be achieved in the shortest possible time.
Faced with very tight spending limits money was committed to the town to help traders including a loyalty scheme.
A full loyalty scheme would have been too costly and complex to set up involving a large number of different shops.
The prize draw offered shoppers the chance to win £1,000, and was easy to operate and administer.
Alternative routes were signposted and parking charges in Tenbury slashed to just 10p for two hours.
There is a car park for 50 vehicles next to the bridge and free shuttle buses.
In summary the bridge had to be repaired and within very tight spending limits steps were taken to make sure the work got done as quickly as possible and initiatives to mitigate the impact on the town were put in place.
There was never going to be a good time to do it so the county and district councils were on a hiding to nothing.