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Calls for 20mph zone in town centre as impact of new £7m Beccles relief road examined

PUBLISHED: 17:17 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:17 05 March 2019

The new Beccles Southern relief road. Picture: Nick Butcher

The new Beccles Southern relief road. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

The impact of a new £7 million road is to be closely examined, six months after its grand opening.

Robert Rous, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk opens the new £7m Beccles Southern Relief Road in September. Picture: Nick ButcherRobert Rous, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk opens the new £7m Beccles Southern Relief Road in September. Picture: Nick Butcher

Opened in September, the Beccles Southern Relief Road was aimed at reducing the number of HGVs in Beccles town centre.

After allowing time for drivers to “suss out” the new road, councillors and campaigners met at Ringsfield Village Hall this week to discuss progress.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who chaired the meeting, said: “Generally with roads there is a belief of once it is open we move on, but patterns of transport change as a result so to make the most of this opportunity we need to take stock of the situation and that is why we are here.

“There have been some innovative thoughts which we need to work through, but we must not forget the impact of the road on the surrounding villages.”

Traffic congestion on on Hungate, Beccles. Picture: Nick ButcherTraffic congestion on on Hungate, Beccles. Picture: Nick Butcher

Much of the discussion focused on road signs to direct HGVs to the relief road.

Beccles Society chairman Paul Fletcher said: “A lot of the signs have been changed and there are less vehicles going through the middle of Beccles than there used to be, but there are still some. We need time for the signs to take effect and for drivers’ Sat Navs to be updated.”

Councillor Graham Catchpole, Waveney District Council’s cabinet member for operations and facilities, said residents had already witnessed a decline in traffic on housing estates, although the HGV concerns still existed.

He said: “There has been a decline in traffic through the housing estates since the opening of the road and on that point it has been a success.

Elfrede Brambley Crawshaw and Mark Bee on Blyburgate, Beccles. The road was downgraded to a 'B' road and the new Southern Relief road became an A road.  Picture: Nick ButcherElfrede Brambley Crawshaw and Mark Bee on Blyburgate, Beccles. The road was downgraded to a 'B' road and the new Southern Relief road became an A road. Picture: Nick Butcher

Adrian Simpson-James, from the Beccles Road Safety Group, said the group was carrying out its own traffic survey.

He said: “We still get vehicles using residential streets when they shouldn’t be. What sort of corner they cut off is minute.

“There are some bad boys of the transport industry who keep going through the town.

“We are undergoing a survey of the HGVs and chart how long it takes a truck to get through the town. If it takes more than 15 minutes it has probably done a drop, but anything less than ten means it has gone straight through.

Councillor Graham Catchpole. Picture: Nick ButcherCouncillor Graham Catchpole. Picture: Nick Butcher

“Trucks are still using the town centre when they don’t need to and that is a concern. I witness it everyday.”

As well as ongoing calls for the introduction of a weight restriction in the town, campaigners are considering a reduction in the speed limit.

Mr Simpson-James said: “We are looking for a considerable reduction in the speed through the whole of Beccles town to make it a safer place to live, work and shop.

“There are narrow pavements, narrow roads and fast vehicles combined with pupils going to school and mothers with pushchairs, all playing chicken with the traffic.

Campaigners Graham Elliott, Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw and Adrian Simpson-James. Picture: Nick ButcherCampaigners Graham Elliott, Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw and Adrian Simpson-James. Picture: Nick Butcher

“We want a long-term proposal for traffic to flow down and reduce, including traffic calming measures and speed reduction zones.

“The whole road map has changed now and we should surely consider a 20mph zone with calming measures.

“It will change the mindset of drivers as they approach the town.”

Mayor of Beccles Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw said: “The HGV traffic is still a persistent problem and there are still a considerable number of HGVs using the town as a short cut and I do believe when weight limits are introduced to make it less favourable there will be less doing so.

Road safety group members Adrian Simpson-James, Ray Simmons, Graham Elliott and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw.  Photo: Beccles Road Safety Group.Road safety group members Adrian Simpson-James, Ray Simmons, Graham Elliott and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw. Photo: Beccles Road Safety Group.

“We want people in Beccles and we want it to be a nice place to shop so it is not an attack on people driving in the town.

“There are a lot of traffic calming measures that could be introduced to stop the flow of traffic and slow things down.

“We need the dialogue and to listen to people who are involved and affected so we can make the changes they need.”

Increased traffic and speeding drivers

Beccles artist Joe Crowfoot.
Beccles artist Joe Crowfoot.

Concerns were raised by representatives from the Ringsfield and Weston Parish Councils about increased traffic and speeding drivers.

Parish chairman Louise Rees said: “We are seeing a significant increase in cars, but not so much with HGVs.

“There are no verges left on Church Road because there are too many cars in both directions.

“People have started putting stones on their verges to stop drivers.

John Sayer, Elizabeth and Yvonne Howell, as well as Mike and Janet Lloyd (not pictured), said branding the road Weston Way would simply “make sense”.John Sayer, Elizabeth and Yvonne Howell, as well as Mike and Janet Lloyd (not pictured), said branding the road Weston Way would simply “make sense”.

“It is a single lane carriageway but people are still doing 40 or 50 mph down there. People do speed through our villages.

“If people think it is a shortcut then the mindset is that it must be quicker.

“We don’t have pavements but there are people who walk along there.”

School Road and Top Road were also highlighted during the meeting, with concerns raised about the quality of the roads, as well as the speed and number of drivers who use it.

Council to carry out traffic survey

A traffic survey is to be carried out by Suffolk County Council to analyse useage of the road, and other roads in the town and nearby villages.

Clive Wilkinson, project manager for Suffolk County Council, said: “With projects like this, we wait six months before carrying out traffic surveys because we need to let people suss out their new routes.

“We can’t do it during winter or at Easter because there is always less traffic, so we are looking to do one at the end of March.

“One of the most important signs is on the A146 at Morrisons and we have totally replaced that now.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we need to change signs two or three times, and we need to find the best solutions for the area.”

The traffic survey will include the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, with the results expected to be analysed by the end of April.

Another meeting is to be held between the interested parties involved once the results are known.

Suzanne Buck, transport, policy and development manager for Suffolk County Council, said: “We need to look at the whole picture.

“People drive to the environment and local people become blind to signs, so signage is not enough.

Naming debate continues

The new road seemed set to be named Joe Crowfoot Way after a public vote on the matter by Beccles Town Council suggested recognising the work of the artist, who passed away in 2017.

Campaigners, however, argue the road should recognise Weston.

Councillor Bee said: “We need to find some sort of consensus for what the road should be called.

“We have heard Joe Crowfoot Way and Weston Way, and there were other suggestions rejected along the way.

“It is quite unusual to name an A road around a town, but once we decide on a name we will look at a proper ceremony.

“It seems there were some groups who feel they were not part of the process the first time.”

Mr Sayer said: “The trouble is the road was built mainly in Weston. The trouble is when these things come up we get outvoted because we are up against Beccles.

“The people in Weston should be recognised. Beccles will have plenty of chances to put names on new roads.”

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