Cafe culture is coming to Pontefract town centre with £100k scheme

A café-style culture is set to be created in the heart of Pontefract town centre.

By Julie Marshall
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 1:35 pm
Coun George Ayre, Coun Matthew Morley and Paul Cartwright, chair of Pontefract Civic Society
Coun George Ayre, Coun Matthew Morley and Paul Cartwright, chair of Pontefract Civic Society

Bars, cafes and restaurants will be able to put tables and chairs outside for customers to use throughout the day and into the evening.

There will be funding available for businesses from Wakefield council’s Welcome Back Fund to buy equipment such as tables and chairs and they will be fully supported to apply for licences to allow them to expand outside.

New planters, better street signage and decorative lighting will be installed.

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An artist's impression of how Ropergate will look.

Ropergate will still be fully accessible to traffic, but on-street parking will be removed. Visitors will still able to access parking at the nearby Newgate North and Newgate South car parks, which has two hours free parking.

Coun Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for planning and highways, said: “This scheme will be a huge boost for local businesses in the area who have told us they are keen for more outside space. The aim is to create a more pleasant atmosphere where people can grab a coffee with friends or enjoy an evening meal and we hope it will increase visitors to the area - giving the local economy a much-needed boost.”

Coun George Ayre, Wakefield Council’s deputy cabinet member for planning and highways, said: “The plans for Ropergate are part of our vision for the regeneration of Pontefract town centre, creating a place people can be proud to call home.”

Paul Cartwright, chairman of Pontefract Civic Society said: "This trial from the council’s highways team is a positive opportunity to respond to the changing nature of town centres and in particular the increasing number of cafes and bars on Ropergate - and there’s more on the way.

An artist's impression looking down Ropergate.

"The whole ambience of the street will change, and car parks with level access to the precinct are close by. We are pleased that our request has been accepted for a drop off/collect bay to support businesses and customers who need it."

It is expected that the £100k scheme will open on March 9. The road will be closed for three days, from March 6-8, to allow for the improvements to be made.

The Council is utilising an experimental order to introduce these changes. The order lasts for a maximum of 18 months and can be ended early if necessary.

Officers will review the scheme every six months and residents are able to submit their views, and learn about other work on the Pontefract Masterplan, by visiting www.wakefield.gov.uk/regeneration/the-towns/pontefract/ropergate.

The Ropergate scheme is part of a wider plan for Pontefract town centre which includes improvements in Horsefair which will re-connect the town centre with the castle and make it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport

A short survey conducted by the Express last summer when the plans to partially pedestrianise Ropergate were first mooted, revealed mixed reactions among business owners.

Darren and Alison Cox of Jolly’s cafe said they would welcome the scheme.

They have a small number of tables outside the cafe for customers to use all year round.

But they said the pavement and road are so narrow that when a delivery wagon drives down the street it can be just inches away from those sitting there.

Lucy Millard of clothes boutique The Wardrobe was all in favour and said that it would revitalise the area, adding: “It would improve the look of the area and bring it to life: make it a destination rather than somewhere to just drive to and then leave."

Ms Millard thinks that there is really no reason to have parking as there are plenty of car parks just a few minutes walk away.

But Mandy Rowland of Hair By Neil feels that stopping parking will damage her business.

She said that her elderly customers in particular like the fact that they can park outside, particularly in the winter when walking to a car park in the dark is an intimidating prospect.

Chris Walker of Ego hair salon agrees.

He is also concerned that the businesses on the right hand side of the road have no rear access for deliveries and that his clients like the fact that they can just pop in and out.

Paige Chester of pet food supplier The Raw Emporium says losing parking outside her shop would devastate her fledgling business.

“I opened up two weeks before the first lockdown and chose this location because of the parking.

“We are doing really well and have a huge customer base but they can sometimes collect up to 100kg of frozen dog food and there is no way that can be carried to even the nearest car park.

“We are a small family business and, although we offer a delivery service that is limited to Saturdays."