Town takes action to stop abuse

By Liz HearnshawEXPENSIVE measures may be taken to prevent the public abusing council staff who enforce road closures in the heart of a historic Suffolk town.

By Liz Hearnshaw

EXPENSIVE measures may be taken to prevent the public abusing council staff who enforce road closures in the heart of a historic Suffolk town.

But plans to introduce automatic bollards along Abbeygate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, have sparked controversy among opponents, who yesterday slammed the scheme as no more than “boys toys.”

Currently, barriers preventing cars from using the roadway during the day are put in place manually, at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,200 every year.

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But members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's cabinet, which is masterminding the scheme, say this system has exposed staff to abuse from angry drivers frustrated at the restriction.

The replacement bollards, which require no manual input, will cost £60,000 to install, with ongoing costs for maintenance standing at £4,000 annually.

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“The manual system has exposed the staff responsible for the bollards to a certain amount of abuse from members of the public - with the new bollards, drivers can have no argument,” said Jeremy Farthing, portfolio holder for the environment.

“The automatic system will provide a greater amount of flexibility for access, and if there is an urgent need, it will be possible to make exceptions so people can still use Abbeygate Street.”

Automatic bollards have caused controversy elsewhere in East Anglia, with a car chauffeuring former World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks hit by one following a book signing event in Cambridge.

And taxi firm AGC cars, of Bedford, successfully won compensation of £4,200 from Cambridgeshire County Council on Friday, after one of the firm's cabs was wrecked by a rising bollard in the city's Emmanuel Road.

“Over a decade, the cost of this project will equal £100,000, which is ridiculously expensive,” said David Nettleton, who serves on the council as an independent. “These are just boys toys, and this is not the right approach.

“These people seem to think if they close a road, the traffic that uses it just disappears.

“Instead, they find a different route, taking vehicles through narrow residential streets along rat-runs which are already over-subscribed.

“A bad situation would then be made even worse. I am totally against this, and don't know why the cabinet is trying to change things. As far as I am concerned, if it isn't broken, then don't fix it.”

But Mr Farthing said the cost of the scheme - due for consideration by the council's cabinet next Wednesday - was a necessary evil when an authority improves its services.

“At £60,000, the automatic bollards are more expensive than the current arrangements, but we believe they will be far more efficient,” he added.

“It does sound like a lot of money, but that is an unfortunate side effect when a council is trying to update and upgrade the way things are done.”

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