A baker who employs 37 people in Holmfirth town centre has made a last ditch plea to save his business.
Greg Christofi, who describes his Old Bridge Bakery as the “busiest business” in Holmfirth, claims he will be forced to shut if Kirklees Council bans unloading outside his premises.
The council’s £4 million Holmfirth Town Centre Action Plan aims to cut congestion and ease traffic flow through the town centre by removing parking in Victoria Street and putting vital on-street loading bays on the north side, the opposite side to Mr Christofi’s business.
The Old Bridge Bakery depends on large-scale deliveries of flour and Mr Christofi has been told his supplier won’t let vehicles park opposite and have staff cross the road to make deliveries.
Traders have repeatedly lobbied the council demanding a change of mind and Mr Christofi again spoke at a full meeting of the council to press the case.
Speaking at the full council meeting Mr Christofi said: “I am here to protect my business, the Old Bridge Bakery, which has been going for 27 years.
“At the last business association meeting members agreed they did not want my business to go so will you allow the flour man, for 20 minutes once a week, to park and unload and save one of the busiest businesses in Holmfirth?”
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for regeneration, said a final decision had already been made and there was nothing left to discuss.
“We have discussed this matter at least five times, three times in full council, and the question is the same again and again,” he said.
“There’s a problem and we had to decide between the two sides of the road. There’s a need to make it possible to make the traffic go through. It’s going to negatively impact one side of the road or the other and, on balance, this has been chosen.
“There has never been any more consultation in any area anywhere in Kirklees than what this has had. The decision has been made to go ahead with the scheme as proposed.”
Mr Christofi came back and said: “So for 20 minutes for somebody delivering once a week you will close the busiest business in Holmfirth? We are employing 37 people so will you come into my shop and tell my staff they don’t have a job?”
Clr McBride accused Mr Christofi of exaggerating the impact and said: “That’s an assertion my officers tell me isn’t true.”
Kirklees Council chose the north side of Victoria Street over the south side because shops on the south side have rear access. However, traders say the rear yard is accessed via an alleyway which is too narrow for larger vehicles.
The scheme has been drawn up by the council but the scheme is being administered by West Yorkshire Combined Authority, now headed by Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin.
Jonathan Bray, of Andrew’s Greengrocers in Holmfirth, also attended the council meeting to ask a question about the road scheme.
He said: “If businesses see a downturn in revenue of over 20% will businesses receive compensation for the disruption?”
Clr McBride replied: “I’m afraid the short answer is no.” He added that he didn’t agree with the assumption that trade would suffer and that there would be longer-term benefits of improving traffic flow.
Mr Bray asked when the road scheme would start and Clr McBride said he didn’t have the exact dates but it would be “very soon.”
The subject returned later in the meeting when Clr Nigel Patrick (Con, Holme Valley South) asked a question of Metro Mayor Ms Brabin.
Clr Patrick said: “Some small businesses in Holmfirth are currently worried sick about the pending Holmfirth Town Centre Access Plan funded by Government money and administered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
“The removal of loading from the south side of Victoria Street threatens to put six shops out of business. There is no justification for the removal of loading. Can I ask you please would you look at this and, if you can, reverse the decision before it’s too late, before these shops close and people lose their jobs?”
Ms Brabin replied: “It’s not something I am across. I was in Holmfirth at the weekend at the Picturedrome watching Turin Brakes. It’s a brilliant town centre. As somebody who was MP for Batley and Spen, a collection of towns, I understand the value of towns for our identity, our community. You only have to look at Hebden Bridge and other communities that have really weathered the Covid storm and had increased footfall in town centres.
“I don’t know about this issue. It sounds like a council issue rather than a West Yorkshire Combined Authority issue but I’m happy to take it away. It sounds like it’s an issue that’s been repeated this evening so it seems like it’s a live issue.”