Here’s how to make Penrith more attractive …
Sir, Recent correspondents have expressed their concerns about the future of Penrith. As a former retailer in Cumbria who has lived in Penrith for 23 years I would like to add mine.
Whether we like it or not, Penrith is the fastest growing town in Cumbria. With its strategic position at the M6/A66 crossroads and gateway to the Lake District, and up to 8,000 new homes in the offing, the town’s population and size could soon double.
A positive effect of this would be more people using Penrith’s shops, resulting in new openings for small businesses, and the filling of the vacant shop units in New Squares by larger retailers. A negative effect would be considerably more traffic passing through our already congested town centre.
Recent new developments in Penrith, including the stores in Ullswater Road, new food supermarkets and housing developments, have been driven by outside commercial interests, rather than by the will of local people. The townspeople of Penrith do not appear to be making any contribution to future plans for their town, and they lack an effective voice.
As an outspoken supporter of a town council for Penrith, I was delighted when Penrith Town Council was finally born. However, its achievements to date have been most disappointing. Town councils usually consist of members with entrepreneurial flair and bright ideas for the future development of their town. Yet, so far, Penrith Town Council has concerned itself only with minor issues and appears oblivious to the major changes and opportunities which lie ahead.
Penrith’s location makes it an obvious stopping off place for motorists on the M6 or A66. Yet when visitors do discover us what do they find? Traffic congestion, inadequate car parks and an attractive town centre that is made unattractive and dangerous by a constant flow of traffic. On Sundays it becomes a ghost town as most of the shops are closed.
Penrith should be promoted as an attractive visitor destination with an ancient market town heritage. Devonshire Street and Market Square should be pedestrianised to provide a suitable and safe environment for shoppers, tourists, market stalls and street entertainers.
Traffic would have to be rerouted around the town centre, perhaps using new roads proposed in the Penrith masterplan.
Existing car parks should be improved and consideration given to a park and ride car park at Junction 40 or Junction 41. Bigger and brighter signs advertising Penrith should be erected on the M6 and A66 approaches. Penrith would then have to be professionally marketed as a visitor destination.
It is arguable that Penrith town centre should have been pedestrianised years ago; but it is not too late, and this would be an appropriate time to proceed as it could be included in the masterplan.
Penrith Town Council is a statutory body with an important role in promoting the town and representing its interests. While its budget is insufficient to pay for major changes, both Eden District Council and Cumbria County Council are statute-bound to give serious consideration to its recommendations. Yours etc,
Lady Anne Court, Penrith.