Calls to make town centre car-free

FRESH calls have been made to make Colchester's town centre a car-free zone after the success of a high-profile cycling event in the town.

FRESH calls have been made to make Colchester's town centre a car-free zone after the success of a high-profile cycling event in the town.

Colchester borough councillor Kim Naish said the town was being “left behind in the prehistoric days” whilst rival destinations such as Ipswich and Chelmsford enjoyed pedestrianised town centres.

Mr Naish said the success of Thursday night's Tour-Series spectacular, which closed the High Street to cars for the day, showed the idea was workable.

He now plans to discuss the suggestion with fellow Labour group members with the aim of taking the plan to full council.

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Last night, the Essex Chamber of Commerce said it welcomed the debate.

Mr Naish said: “Closing down the town did not cause any real traffic problems and it goes to show the High Street can be pedestrianised or private car-free.

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“It would be good for the town - there is actually no need for private cars to go down the High Street whatsoever.

“We have had this great showpiece so now is the right time to start the debate.”

Mr Naish said he had first suggested the idea more than a decade ago and was labelled a “crackpot”, but he said times have changed and people recognised the need for a greener town centre.

“Being a taxi driver I know that 95% of the cars do not stop in the High Street or in town and it is just used as a through route and there is no need for this.

“I think we, as a town, have been left behind in the prehistoric days when you look at Ipswich and Chelmsford and other towns which have been pedestrianised for some time.

John Clayton, chief executive of the Essex Chamber of Commerce, said: “What needs to happen in the next five, 10 or 20 years is for people to decide what they want the town centre to look like.

“We need to have some kind of discussion rather than just jumping to some conclusion.

“We need to know what the local people want and what the local businesses want.”

Mr Naish's suggestion has been backed by the head of street services and fellow Labour councillor Tim Young.

He said: “It has been the policy of the Colchester Labour Party since the early nineties.

“We haven't been in a position before to implement that but it has been on the group's agenda for about 15 to 16 years, so Kim is only reiterating his group's policy.

“I fully support it but I think we should consult wisely before it's done. I think the event proved that we can have no private cars on the street and the town can still function.”

The proposal has been supported by the Green Party's Eastern co-ordinator, Peter Lynn.

He said: “It's Green Party Policy and has been for some time that the High Street should be restricted to buses, delivery vehicles, taxis and local residents.

“I think it's an excellent idea but I don't think it's a new idea at all.”

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