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High Street bus ban for Southwold

PUBLISHED: 09:21 14 January 2011

ONE of Suffolk's premier coastal resorts is considering banning buses and coaches from its High Street, it has emerged.

Southwold is looking at ways to ease congestion in the town – particularly during the peak tourist season – and could push for traffic and parking restrictions.

Town councillors are considering the idea of restricting buses and coaches in the town centre after receiving the results of a traffic survey.

They say the idea is only a proposal at this stage but traders in the tourist hotspot fear it could be trialled in the summer and implemented in the long-term.

Business leaders believe a ban – or severe transport restrictions in the town centre – would have a serious impact on trade.

David Ward, chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, said: “While businesses on the High Street acknowledge that there is a problem with traffic congestion some of the time, the chamber believes that a total ban of buses and coaches from the High Street will have a detrimental effect on businesses as a whole and is a disproportionate reaction to the problem.

“If tourist coaches do still decide to come to Southwold following the ban, they are more likely to make the pier their only stop.

“Tourists on coaches will not even see the High Street and will not therefore be tempted to explore the town and visit cafes, restaurants and shops.”

Among the changes being suggested is moving the bus stop from the centre of the town to the far end of the High Street, near to the King’s Head pub, which would mean the loss of about 10 short-stay parking spaces outside the post office.

Guy Mitchell, sub-postmaster at Southwold Post Office, said: “We simply cannot afford this loss which will have a serious impact on businesses at our end of town.”

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for transport, said he had been speaking to the town council about a number of traffic measures to implement for the summer season, including possible parking restrictions and alterations to bus routes.

The town council circulated a traffic questionnaire in October, which canvassed the opinions of 572 people. Of those surveyed, 57% of people agreed Southwold had a traffic problem “some of the time” but 39% said they wished to “leave things as they are”; another 37% said they wished to see the bus stop moved to the King’s Head area.

The chamber of trade claimed it had not received consultation forms, but had carried out its own survey, in which more than half of the 31 businesses it surveyed said they favoured no change to the existing traffic plans.

Mr Ward said the chamber urgently wanted to meet the town council to discuss their concerns about the plans and the consultation.

Town councillor Geraldine Bryant said the “plan” was at such an early stage that it was nothing more than an idea.

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