Traffic ban extended to help cafes and restaurants 'get back on their feet'
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A high street in a historic town will be closed to traffic for longer to support the recovery of hard-hit hospitality businesses.
Abbeygate Street in Bury St Edmunds will be shut to vehicles from 8am to 6pm in a six-month trial led by the Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID) and supported by West Suffolk Council.
The street, a key thoroughfare in the market town, is currently closed from 10am to 4pm.
As well as supporting cafes and restaurants, it is hoped the initiative will attract more footfall to the benefit of all businesses as they reopen after Covid lockdown three.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the BID, said: “Although cafes and restaurants will be allowed to open from 12 April, they won’t be allowed to serve any customers indoors until 17 May at the earliest and even then, the rule of six will apply.
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"We are looking at ways with West Suffolk Council, not only for the businesses in Abbeygate Street and Angel Hill to open for longer daytime hours, but be able to get more tables and chairs out, all with a view of helping them manage capacity particularly while there are still some restrictions in place.
"When the restrictions are eventually lifted, they will be able to cater for more people for longer, hopefully helping these businesses to get back on their feet.”
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Susan Glossop, cabinet member for growth at West Suffolk Council, said: “We have been working with the BID throughout the past year on the Safer Places initiative which is about giving the public confidence to return to our town centre to shop.
"The BID hopes that this will help create more activity and footfall, aiming to benefit the businesses in Abbeygate Street and the wider town centre as well. We are pleased to support them in this."
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member responsible for highways, transport and rural affairs, said: “There is a mixture of independent and chain restaurants and cafes in Abbeygate Street in Bury St Edmunds. It is usually a very busy street, frequented by local residents and visitors to the historic town.
“The extended closure of Abbeygate Street to motorised vehicles will be transformative for the area. It will support businesses in the hospitality sector hard-hit by the lockdown to be able to maximise the opportunity for new trade and to aid social distancing.
"I know from past experience that once one or two businesses falter the rest of the street will tumble and fall so it’s really important to make sure we can do all that we can to support businesses to get back on their feet and survive the difficult period they have been through.”
The extension of the road closure is also an aspiration set out in the town centre masterplan, shaped by 8,000 public comments and adopted by West Suffolk Council in 2017.
The temporary scheme will begin on April 12.
As with any temporary Traffic Regulation Order, feedback will be received throughout the process from residents, businesses and visitors.
The crossings from High Baxter Street into Hatter Street, and Lower Baxter Street into Angel Lane, will not be closed under the trial scheme.