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Matthew Hancock
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Radical new thinking on town centre traffic

Friday, 9th September 2011.

Hopes for proper pedestrianisation of Haverhill High Street in the near future are up in the air again after a U-turn by Suffolk County Council.

Having put forward plans to close the street above Quakers Lane, using that street as the exit for vehicles which still need access to the lower part of High Street, the council are now saying that idea is no longer practicable.

Haverhill Area Working Party meeting yesterday was asked to approve another lot of consultation on a new idea, which could see the whole process drag out well into next year, particularly if the expected public inquiry is needed.

Members refused to make a decision on either option until they had been given more information by the county council, and have called for this to be brought to another meeting as soon as possible so as not to delay progress any further.

But the new idea is radical and will require a lot more consultation.

It involves closing High Street completely during the day, possibly with access only for certain permit-holders such as businesses which need access.

It also involves closing Swan Lane at the police station, and making it two-way back to The Pightle, and making Crowland Road one-way north-south, the opposite of what is currently being consulted on.

This is to allow access north-south across the town, which will be closed off by not allowing traffic to cross from Swan Lane to Camps Road.

The aim is to reduce the amount of traffic which can gain access to High Street and Queen Street to abuse the system, as currently happens.

The working party needed more convincing that this scheme is practicable and that the Quakers Lane one is not before it was prepared to indicate any preference.

The council also put forward another option for High Street closure - closing it completely to all traffic except funerals and weddings, which, it points out, would be easy to enforce.

Chairman Cllr Karen Richardson said everyone was frustrated throughout the town at the length of time it was taking to make any progress on the High Street scheme.

But the part of the scheme which the working party is directly responsible for, which concerns improvements to the lower end of High Street, including paving up to Quakers Lane, will go ahead whatever.

The 750,000 for that scheme is already earmarked by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

But there are numerous controversial elements in both options for the rest of the scheme. Public consultation was not very supportive of using Quakers Lane as a traffic through route, and the new scheme is full of debatable issues.

Complete closure would draw protest from many businesses which have difficult or no rear access, but the report says complete pedestrianisation would be the best outcome for many people.

The High Street would be closed off to blue badge holders who have been one of the most vociferous opponents of the current plan.

The report also recognises the changes to Swan Lane would not be popular with everyone.

"This proposal is controversial but it would be a real benefit to the scheme. Currently this proposal is supported by the town council, the police and the county councillors, but not the Chamber of Commerce," the report says.

The schedule currently expects the process from consultation to public inquiry to take until the end of March 2012, with site works then running until December 2012.

The latest hold-up should not add more than a month to that, Cllr Richardson said.

Haverhill Online News

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