‘Where does it end’: Colchester set to ban cars from high street despite traffic issues

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A traffic ban has already been in place on Colchester High Street for two years, with Essex County Council looking to keep the traffic ban in place between 7am and 7pm. The authority said a “robust and meaningful” consultation had already shown “a clear desire” for a permanent ban.

Temporary restrictions were introduced in June 2020 as part of the council’s “Safer, Greener, Healthier” initiative and to enable social distancing after the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Buses, taxis and blue badge holders will still be permitted to use the zone.

A council report said: “Following their introduction, extensive engagement and consultation has taken place with local people, and there is a clear desire to see a set of permanent restrictions.”

It said that the ban will promote Colchester High Street as a “highly attractive area” for pedestrians, shoppers, visitors and businesses by restricting its use to through traffic.

Bill Nettelfield, who runs Bill and Berts gift shop in the town centre, said he is worried the ban will drive potential customers away.

He added: “Getting the cars out of the high street isn’t such a bad idea.

“But where does it end, we’ve got all these out of town shopping areas where you can just drive to and there’s free parking.

“Is that going to drive more and more footfall away from the town?” he told BBC News.

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The scheme is part of a wider plan to enhance cycling and walking routes in Essex towns.

Funded by £7million from the Government’s Active Travel Fund, the council plans to introduce 20mph areas and new “School Streets”.

Neil Gibb, from Mersea Island, who has run social enterprises in Colchester, said that “in theory it could improve the quality of the town centre”.

“[But] we have to think about how do we improve the area rather than how do we just close the road because the buses are a mess in Colchester,” he said.

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