Colchester: Councils fall-out over suspension of high street car ban

Death of a Town protestors gather outside Colchester Town Hall to protest about the traffic restrict

Death of a Town protestors gather outside Colchester Town Hall to protest about the traffic restrictions imposed on motorists trying to use Colchester High Street. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A ROW has erupted among council bosses over the scrapping of a controversial car ban in Colchester’s high street - just three weeks after it was launched.

Essex County Council (ECC) announced yesterday it would be suspending the scheme following hundreds of complaints from shoppers, disabled groups and traders.

However, the move has infuriated council chiefs at Colchester Borough Council who say they were not made aware of the decision before it was publicised.

They had asked ECC, which is responsible for highways, to implement the new traffic restrictions to enhance the town centre.

Leader of the borough council Anne Turrell, said: “We are both staggered and extremely disappointed that Essex County Council has taken the unilateral decision to suspend the experimental Traffic Regulation Orders in Colchester town centre.

“Colchester Borough Council had no prior knowledge of this decision and was not involved in the decision making process.”

The suspension of the car ban was announced at 12pm while a monitoring group meeting was taking place at the town hall with councillors and businesses to discuss the ban.

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Earlier in the morning campaigners gathered outside the town hall where the meeting was taking place to protest over the car ban.

Lyn Barton, Colchester’s cabinet member for renaissance said: “We spent three hours in a meeting discussing the ban as we know there needed to be adjustments, especially with disabled parking.

“It’s discourteous. Every time ECC tell me we’re working in partnership then they don’t tell us what they’re doing. I’m very disappointed. I think it’s politically motivated with elections around the corner.

“Three weeks is not long enough - it’s too early to gauge.”

But ECC’s highways chief Derrick Louis has defended the decision while retailers in the town have welcomed the move.

Mr Louis said: “Before the trial started I said I would listen to the people of Colchester and that’s what I’ve done.

“Hundreds of people against the scheme have been lobbying me and only two have been in favour so I decided to suspend the scheme.”

He also accused Colchester’s Liberal Democrats of “attacking” the initiative in public which he said had led to the breakdown of the partnership.

The traffic regulation orders, which prevent cars and lorries from travelling in the high street from 11am to 6pm, were due to stay in place for 18 months. They will now be removed by April 21.

Chair of Colchester’s retail business association Michelle Reynolds welcomed the move.

She said: “The council has obviously listened. Yes they have made a U-turn but we now have the opportunity to talk about it properly and get a solution.

“We have always said to restrict business, disabled access and shoppers is wrong and wait until the park and ride scheme is running.

“Some traders in the town had seen sales drop by 70% and were threatened with job losses.

“But now there is an opportunity for both councils to sit down with all stake holder groups and get it right next time.”