PEEBLES has been voted the ‘second least cloned town in Britain’ with a variety of independent shops and retail outlets offering choice away from the usual high street chains.

With the partial closure of the main road through the town centre for four weeks to allow for water mains work on the Cuddy Bridge, it had been feared that shoppers may bypass the area.

However, with pedestrian access being maintained at all times and road diversions in place to accommodate motorists, traders in the Old Town this week confirmed it was business as usual.

New signage has been erected on the bridge to promote the area, which boasts more than a dozen shops, cafe and riverside walks, inviting visitors to explore the area.

Local businessman Richard Nisbet, who runs Castle Warehouse, said: “The Old Town is a great shopping experience because it’s the one part of the whole of Peebles which actually has all it’s shops taken.

“We’ve got the shoe shop, we’ve got the butchers, we’ve got a garage at the top of the road, two hairdressers, there’s Toby with his art work, an excellent stationers, and Castle Warehouse itself and Co-op, Red Cross, Out and About and Cocoa Black to name a few.

“Quite often when people are reporting about Peebles and retail they are always talking about the High Street or the Eastgate. But there is the Northgate and the Old Town is an absolutely great experience. It’s got such a variety, it’s got a far better variety than the rest of Peebles. I know I’m being biased.” And it’s never been easier to get there. Richared added: “We’ve got wide pedestrian footpaths on both sides of the bridge and the first four hours is free in the car park.” Geographically, on the periphery of the main shopping centre, separated by Cuddy Bridge and with many stores not visible from the High Street many visitors believe that the end of the high Street marks the end of retail and recreational opportunities.

However, the new signage on the Cuddy Bridge, which maps out a number of historical attractions in the area, links the Old Town with the rest of Peebles.

Sandra Gray, who works as a shop assistant at the Red Cross shop, said: “In the summer I had a lady in who said she had been coming to Peebles for five or six years and that was the first time she knew this shop was here because she’d never come up the Old Town, so it’s important we make people aware that there are shops up here.

“People can still park outside to deliver donations into the shop which we would be delighted to receive.” Local businesses have reported mixed results during the first week of the road works on Cuddy Bridge. But all agree that if the work had to be completed January, traditionally a quieter month, was the best time to start.

Toby Watts, from Tweed Art, said: “Being actually on the bridge, as long as the road works can be completed in as short a time as possible, I would like to think it’s going to have a major impact (on business) - it’s more of an inconvenience for both sides of the community who need to get across town, because it’s a long way around.” But he added: “I would like everyone to know all businesses in the Old Town are open for business as usual.

“The car park at Greenside is still open, so people can still park there. And it’s nice not to have big lorries thundering past.”