‘LTNs are killing the high street – people want Deliveroo’

Cheese shop owner warns against ‘dark kitchen’ delivery hubs, claiming road closures hurt trade

Friday, 12th November 2021 — By Anna Lamche

Patricia Michelson Highbury Barn

Patricia Michelson, owner of La Fromagerie

A SMALL business owner claims Islington’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods policy has “dramatically” affected her business, keeping customers away.

Patricia Michelson, founder of the Highbury Barn cheese shop La Fromagerie, said the road closures were now hurting high streets across the borough.

“Our shop sales are down and the delivered goods are way up, like three times what we would have normally been selling,” Ms Michelson said. “But Deliveroo is charging me 22 per cent for doing it. People are using delivery vans when they could just walk up and get everything they want here.”

Ms Michelson is concerned that LTNs are discouraging people from leaving their homes, cementing the preference, forged during Covid-19, for home deliveries over a visit to the high street.

“Maybe people have changed the way that they’re shopping, maybe they don’t want to come out so often,” Ms Michelson said. “But at the same time, this is not sustainable.”

Ms Michelson opened La Fromagerie in Highbury Park in 1992. “It was a really busy thriving street then, people would come from everywhere. They would come from as far as Kent to spend the day in Islington. You just don’t see that any more,” she said.

She claims the weekends are quieter than before. “I came on Saturday at two o’clock and the street was dead. That was never like that in the old days,” she said. “It’s post-Covid, yet we’re losing out on key moments of the week where we need that footfall.”

High street shops could soon be replaced by “dark kitchen” delivery hubs, Ms Michelson warned, adding: “This shop is not there to be a delivery service. It’s a beautiful shop. I employ people and I pay my rent for us to be open every single day, seven days a week.

“If I’m to be a delivery service, I don’t need this shop, I can just do everything from a warehouse. I think people need to realise they are going to lose their shopping streets.”

Despite her criticisms, Ms Michelson says she is not against the scheme. “I’m not opposed to all LTNs, I’m not saying ‘do away with them completely,’ what I’m saying is we need to devise a plan where we can allow free movement in the borough,” she said.

“Yes, we want to reduce [air pollution] but at the same time, we don’t want to strangle people living here or wanting to come here,” she added.

Caroline Russell, Islington’s only Green Party councillor, supports LTNs but said the council needed to do more.

She said: “Patricia is right to raise the importance of making our shopping parades nice places for people to hang around and buy food, pick up a prescription or get shoes repaired. Highbury Barn feels quite traffic-dominated and could do with wider pavements, especially by the northbound bus stop, a second zebra crossing and a good plan for business loading and dropping off.”

She added: “The pandemic may have changed some shopping habits, with more deliveries and app-based e-bike deliveries but that needn’t mean people are not shopping locally.”

Islington’s environment chief, Councillor Rowena Champion, has said: “By reducing the dominance of motor vehicles, we can make Islington a fairer borough where everyone – including the approximately 70 per cent of households that do not own a car – can walk, cycle, and use buggies and wheelchairs safely and easily.

“The Highbury West and Highbury Fields people-friendly streets neighbourhoods will help to create a safer, greener, healthier Islington where everyone is able to travel safely and easily around the borough.”

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