‘The bridge is closed – but the town is still open’: Business fear impact of Menai Bridge closure as Christmas approaches
Businesses in the town of Porthaethwy are keen to stress that they are open for business in the run-up to Christmas after the closure of the Menai suspension bridge in October.
The A5 Menai Suspension Bridge was closed to all traffic with immediate effect on 21 October by the Welsh Government, in the interest of public safety, after serious risks were identified and structural engineers recommended closing the bridge.
But businesses worry that customers might believe that the town itself – often referred to as Menai Bridge in English – is closed, hitting trade at the busiest time of the year.
Jane Walsh, of Plus39 café said: “The town is still open. I’m worried that the signs on the roads say ‘Menai Bridge is closed’, they don’t say that the town is open.
“As a town we are in contact with highways to change that, to say that the suspension bridge is closed, or the Telford bridge. Phrase it in a different way.”
Jane’s Italian café offers a relaxed atmosphere to go alongside an incredible selection of cakes and delicious coffees. Situated in the centre of town, Plus39 should have a lot more business than it currently does.
However, Jane and other local business owners worry that without the council’s help to change the signage, people travelling along the A55 will assume that Menai bridge town is closed, and avoid visiting completely.
“In Welsh, the towns name is Porthaethwy,” Jane continues. “So maybe if we could change those signs it would be a bit easier, because people coming from Wrexham or Queensbury, they’ve seen the signs.
“For them, it would signal that the entire place is closed. So if we could change that, that would be great.”
The town hasn’t been this quiet in centuries. As Porthaethwy sits on the slimmest part of the Straits, chosen as the site of Telford’s suspension bridge, it’s had a very busy history.
After the first world war, steamships from Liverpool would venture to Porthaethwy, turning the town into an Edwardian resort.
But with the bridge closed for months for the first time in almost 200 years, it has left many businesses cut off from their usual flow of traffic.
Sian Sykes of Psyched Paddleboarding said that “Menai Bridge is very neglected on the island.”
She runs a paddleboarding business offering unique experiences exploring the Menai Strait, and agrees that the signage on the A55 is “having a knock-on effect on local shopping in the area”.
The bridge is currently due to reopen in the new year, but she worries that the problems could remain unresolved in the longer term.
“My worry is that I really heavily rely on a busy summer season for tourists.” Sian continues.
“If tourists catch wind of this on social media, how dire it is, when they’re planning their holiday for next year, they’re probably not going to pick holidaying on the island.
“They’re going to avoid Anglesey, so the whole tourist economy here will really suffer, we will really suffer.”
Lesley Jones of Pip’s Pet Supplies has said that she’s “holding on to (Christmas) stock, hoping that it will go in December”.
“I absolutely hope that that will happen for us,” she said. “Menai Bridge has something very unique to offer, that I really can’t say anywhere else.
“We’ve got this small high street, and on this high street you’ve got an independent pet shop. All of the staff here have got animal welfare backgrounds, so there’s a lot of knowledge there.
“You’ve butchers, again, independent. Artisan bakers, a speciality cheese and wine shop, we’ve got fantastic cafés. It’s absolutely fantastic. You could literally do your whole (Christmas) shopping here.”
Porthaethwy will be hosting its first late-night shopping evening of the year on 1st December 2022, and will include the Christmas lights turn-on. The local businesses are looking into having a weekly late-night shopping date.
The late night will run from 17:00-22:00 this Thursday, and there will be free parking in the town in support of this.
Head along to Porthaethwy on the first evening of December to enjoy evening festivities, and to support the local businesses.
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