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High Street upgrade to go ahead without a traffic ban

Friday, 16th March 2012.

Stunned councillors faced with their hopes to pedestrianise Haverhill High Street being 'dead in the water', were still horrified at an alternative plan where delivery vehicles would exit by driving down Jubilee Walk.

Yesterday's meeting of Haverhill Area Working Party ended agreed by a majority to go ahead with upgrading the look of High Street with paving, but with little or no prospect of banning traffic from it.

Suffolk County Council highways department's latest proposal to close the street by barriers from 10am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 6am-6pm Friday and Saturday provoked 18 objections when it went out to consultation earlier this year.

As a result, officers said there was a substantial risk it would not get past council committees or a public inquiry, particularly as only 33 per cent of people who responded in favour of it.

Councillors variously described themselves as 'amazed', 'astonished', 'flabbergasted' and 'gobsmacked' by the turn of events, mainly because residents in their wards seemed to be so much in favour of the idea.

Town mayor Cllr Maureen Byrne, said: "I am amazed at the outcome of your consultation. In my ward 90 per cent of residents would want pedestrianisation."

Luke Barber, of the highways department, piut forward an alternative option where only disabled people and delivery drivers would be able to enter the street.

It would be closed off above Jubilee Walk, allowing for a plaza outside the Arts Centre, and vehicles would exit via a re-engineered Jubilee Walk into Brook Street Service Road.

Cllr Phillip French said: "I am gobsmacked at the idea of traffic using Jubilee Walk. The problem is where shops have not got rear access, we have got to get access for them."

Cllr Anne Gower said a lot of money had been spent on making Jubilee Walk nice and it would be hard to justify ripping it up now. "What we need is enforcement on access and parking," she said.

Cllr Paul McManus agreed. "We have got to get traffic enforcement in Haverhill," he said. "Being nice doesn't go down in this town - enforce it. I am sick and tired of the way traffic is not controlled."

Cllr Tim Marks, who chairs Haverhill Safer Neighbourhood Team, said the police did not have the resources for that. "I am flabbergasted that, at this late stage, we are back to the drawing board and we don't have a plan," he said.

But High Street business people who attended the meeting were quick to point out they had all along maintained the public did not want pedestrianisation.

Haverhill Chamber of Commerce had sent in a letter of objection about the scheme, signed by over 50 High Street businesses who say pedestrianisation would adversely affect their business.

Mark Chapman of Chapman and Son said any engineering works at the moment woulkd be 'a disaster'.

"Last time the street was dug up, which was 1991 I believe, we lost 30 per cent of our trade every day for months," he said.

"Out of a population of 23,000 not even 50 people called for pedestrianisation. People nowadays want to be able to park outside a shop."

Councillors had told the businesses they would have to put up with lack of access and have deliveries made at different times.

But Colin Richards of TVL said deliveries were made by couriers who, if they couldn't park nearby, would just take items back to the depot.

Cllr Byrne said: "Businesses have got to compromise. I think they are digging their heels in and they could be more helpful to the town."

Street trader Andy Murless said if traffic was allowed in pedestrians would accommodate it. "The town is too small and has too little muscle for traders to be able to force deliveries at other times without having to pay increased costs," he said.

Mark Goulding of STP said they carried out 20-30 computer repairs a week and people couldn't park in Argos and carry their computer to the shop.They also had to have delivereies each day.

Some councillors admitted they may not have had enough dialogue with the traders before pushing ahed with the plan.

Cllr Les Ager said: "We need a lot more consultations with businesses in the town." He thought Jubilee Walk would be an unsafe exit for traffic. "The area around that chestnut tree is a haven in the town and this idea would ruin it."

Despite the fears of traders about the disruption of engineering works, the working party agreed to go ahead with a 750,000 scheme to pave over the area from Swan Lane to Quakers Lane and improve the environment, by a majority of 4-2.

The issue of whether to still press ahead with trying to get a traffic ban in the face of the challenges which have arisen will come back to another meeting for discussion.

Haverhill Online News

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Haverhill, UkPosted by THE WANDERER at 9:38PM on 17th March, 2012. (82.26.xxx.xxx)

If the council had listened to the people who's livelihoods are affected they would never have got into this muddle.Pedestrianisation is dead in the water.Let's not try to resurrect it.


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