TRADERS and shoppers facing new road restrictions launched a town centre protest on Wednesday.

Banner-carrying objectors claimed that the proposed plan will leave businesses stranded 'on an island' and kill off the town centre altogether.

Some shopkeepers have organised a petition against the scheme which would bring changes in Mayfield Street and other side streets off Market Street.

These include one-way systems, driving bans and loading restrictions though some existing limiting waiting orders will be revoked.

Protest co-ordinator Jim Hewitt, of J Bargain Stores, said: "We have already collected 1,000 signatures against the plans and want many more.

He said: "We don't want pedestrianisation and we don't want any more roads closed off. What we do want is traffic in the town centre travelling along Market Street.

"Shoppers come to Atherton for an hour at the most and they need somewhere to stop to nip in to the shops. We want the pedestrianisation ripping up and Market Street back as it was with proper parking along one side of the street.

"Businesses have been marooned and there's only one access road to the town centre off Hamilton Street and that's Mayfield Street.

"We launched the protest to let Wigan know we have had enough and to keep their hands off Atherton. We need help, not totally destroying.

"I went to see MP Andy Burnham and he was unaware of the depth of feeling. Eight businesses have closed since pedestrianisation was introduced two years ago, admittedly new ones have opened, but a few more are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

"Wigan are just trampling over us. They closed the market, there is no intention of re-opening it and it would make valuable parking space for shoppers.

"Under new laws all businesses have a duty to the disabled. I can't see how excluding them from the town centre helps. Everyone is up in arms especially after the announcement of the closure of the baths.

"The protest was organised to let the powers that be know that we are not happy."

A council spokesman said: "We cannot comment on a petition we have yet to receive, but any objections made by November 5 will be given due consideration."