Colchester: Demonstrators protest against traffic scheme

Protesters outside Colchester Town Hall

Protesters outside Colchester Town Hall - Credit: Archant

DEMONSTRATORS have turned out in force to express their opposition to a controversial new town traffic scheme.

Around 50 protesters congregated on the steps of Colchester Town Hall yesterday morning to highlight their concerns about the traffic restrictions, which come into force this Sunday.

The scheme, which is being trialled for 18 months, will see private vehicles banned from using Colchester’s High Street from 11am to 6pm. Further restrictions will also apply to nearby streets. It is being introduced by Colchester Borough Council and implemented by Essex County Council, which has responsibility for managing highways. The councils say the road changes are designed to enhance the environment for shoppers and boost the town’s vitality.

But opponents feel closing off access to the High Street in this way will impact visitors numbers, hinder trade deliveries and clog up surrounding roads.

Yesterday, traders, publicans, representatives from disabled groups and lorry drivers waved yellow ballons with the word ‘No’ written on them. Two demonstrators even turned up dressed as brides to highlight the fact that wedding cars will be prohibited from arriving at the front door of the Town Hall. The demonstration was organised by Colchester Retail and Business Association (CORBA) and timed to coincide with a meeting of the Monitoring Group, which has been established to assess the impact of the new scheme.

Among the crowd was Alan Dennis and Amanda Halsey, who run the Castle Pub on the High Street.

Mr Dennis said: “If we can’t unload off the High Street, the nearest loading bay is 400 yards away. We take delivery of 24 barrels a week, as well as gas canisters for the pumps. Our delivery people are saying they won’t be able to deliver to us because of health and safety concerns about barrels falling off trolleys.”

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Wheelchair user Angie Walker also spoke out against the plans, which will see less blue badge parking places on the High Street. “At the moment I can park on the High Street as long as I move my car every three hours.

“Now I’m going to have to park god knows where. I can’t get on buses and I can’t afford to use taxis to get to work. I’m frightened I won’t be able to get to work.”

Headteacher at nearby Thomas More primary school, Bridget Harris, had even brought some pupils along to protest.

Ms Harris added: “The scheme will affect all the parents who come to pick their kids up from school.

“I admire the fact the council wants to do something to tackle the traffic problems in the town but I can’t see that it has been thought through. It’s going to lead to more traffic problems and more frustration.”

In response to the demonstration, councillor Lyn Barton, who sits on the Monitoring Group, urged people to give the traffic trial a chance.

She said: “The Council is trialling this on an experimental basis and is pleased to be working with key representatives from across the Town Centre to carefully monitor the scheme.

“The traffic changes will help deliver a better town centre for all. With the on going challenge and increasing pressure from online shopping it is vital that we make the High Street an attractive destination for residents and their families.

“All current research supports our belief that reducing congestion leads to more residents visiting the Town Centre.”

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