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Businesses split over Water Street traffic

File photograph

A section of a main shopping street in St George’s was open to vehicles on Monday — but the road was closed off to traffic again yesterday.

Water Street had been closed to traffic between 10am and 4pm during the summer months.

The decision garnered a mixed reaction from St George’s businesses.

The Corporation of St George’s said on Monday it would open Water Street West from Customs House Square to Blacksmith Hill with immediate effect.

The statement said the section of Water Street between King’s Square and Customs House Square would remain closed to traffic between 10am and 4pm.

But the entire street was closed to traffic yesterday.

Mayor George Dowling and Candy-Lee Foggo, the town manager, were yesterday off island and unavailable for comment.

Kristin White, a businesswoman who runs a Water Street bookshop and area tours, lashed out against the decision in a post on Facebook.

She said: “Around the world — and even in Hamilton and in Dockyard — there has been a move towards fewer cars and more streets closed to traffic for both environmental and social reasons.

“So, most business owners on Water Street have been in favour of extending the pedestrianised hours to align with the last ferry departure at 5.45pm to add weekends and extend it year-round.

“But Dowlings Gas Station, our new mayor’s family business, wants more cars in the town, not less. More bikes and trucks speeding down Water Street, more traffic, because that means more gas and so more money.”

Ms White said she was “livid” over the decision, which was made without consultation.

She added: “What we have here is an elected official using his role to change a policy to benefit his own personal business — without consulting his team, his community, his stakeholders.”

But yesterday afternoon Sheila Pitcher of Affordable Home Goods, also on Water Street, said the change would benefit some retailers.

She said: “I prefer that the gate is left open because it is good for the type of business I operate.

“The street was a lot busier, people were able to park and shop further down.

“For my shop, we can’t get deliveries when the gate is closed. I sometimes can’t get home until 9pm because I’m making deliveries for customers who can’t park nearby.”

Jan Card, owner of nearby Vera P Card, said he was surprised to be told the street would be open — and to find it closed to traffic again yesterday.

He added: “I don’t know what the status is. It’s not very clear, but from what I read it was going to be open going forward for the rest of the summer.”

Mr Card said it made sense for the street to be closed to traffic because of the number of visitors in the town.

He said: “A lot of people get off the ferry or off the bus and they go down Water Street and a lot of these people are children. A lot of them are seniors, many of whom have some sort of mobility issues.

“It’s not easy for people to get out of the way of traffic. Outside of us, the only way to get off the street is to go onto our veranda.

“I don’t know why they did it. There was no explanation. I don’t know if they talked about it at the Town Hall or at one of their open meetings, but it never got to me.”

Ashly Cucinotta of Brumae Gourmet agreed that traffic on the street could cause problems for pedestrians.

She said: “I walk there all the time. There are a few times when I’ve been walking in the winter season, when the road is open, and have had drivers honking at me to get out of the way but there’s nowhere to go.”

Ms Cucinotta suggested that the Corporation could invite businesses to put up stalls to create a market atmosphere and promote new opportunities for entrepreneurs.