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Easier traffic flow comes at a price in Stafford

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: August 24, 2014

  • HORSE AND CART ERA... The White Lion, Stafford, photographed in 1900.

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ANY means of relieving traffic congestion in Stafford is usually heralded as a step forward but it can often mean bad news for those who stand in the way of so-called progress.

So news in 1975 that work on an inner relief road was imminent spell the end of the road for those whose businesses struggling away when bulldozers finally moved in and began demolishing old shops and workshops.

Stafford's inner relief road was on the drawing board in 1968 and likely to cost £500,000 but by the spring of 1975 costs had risen to more than £3 million, the biggest problem for planners being a long stretch of marshland from Lammascote to the old Gaol Square.

One man who viewed the new road with trepidation was motor repair man Bryan Carr whose business at South Walls had been the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition and although he had rented the building it was not likely to be replaced.

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Bryan, 45, worked alongside his 19-year-old son Kirk in the business and at the time, despite looking for premises elsewhere, he saw his future as an employee. “Everyone wants too much and there is nowhere in situ good position as this," he said.

Not only were businesses were facing upheaval, residents Florence Hill, and her husband Eric, had rented a house in White Lion Street for 31 years and reflected on having a similar experience from their previous home in Huddersfield.

Business premises in the Gaol Square area had been in some families for generations including the Dale brothers, fishmongers Eric and Sidney, who saw the inner ring road as the final now on their 150-year-old business.

Pet shop owner Alfred Day rented premises on Foregate Street where he ran Aslings, reputed to be Stafford's first pet shop when it opened 45 years earlier. “I worked this business since I was a boy and took it over in 1956," said Mr Day.

He have a stark choice of finding an alternative shop to rent or winding up his business. (In fact, Aslings pet shop continues, although under different ownership and at another location.).

The Gaol Square business of Stafford Carpet and Flooring Centre run by partners Stewart Millward and Eddie Ralph were both on the hunt for new premises and foresaw higher overheads - and hence prices to customers.

Mr Ralph said a compulsory purchase order had been served on the property 12 years earlier and the indecision by planners have seen their property occupied by three different tenants in that time.

Three hundred customers of the Unicorn pub on Lammascote Road sign a petition organised by Tony Pendleton and presented to the Stafford Mayor, Ruth Dickson. Landlord Brian Deakin commented: “The Unicorn is a country pub in the middle of the town."

The Unicorn was not the only club facing closure.

The White Lion of Lichfield Road was said to date back to the 14th century but was set to come down to make way for traffic. Licensee Gordon Eccles pleaded with planners to save the pub because of its ancient construction.

But he was told that over the years the pub had had so many extensions that its historic value was small.

And so the “death toll” grew to include two antique shops, shoe shop, cobblers, cafe and White Lion Street flats and terraced houses - all went to make Stafford so much more traffic-friendly.

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