Road closure to allow stores to reopen criticised as ‘crazy’
- Credit: Archant
Moves to close off part of Felixstowe town centre to traffic for the months ahead have been criticised for removing the resort’s “shop window” to visitors.
Community leaders say closing off the shared-space section of Hamilton Road for the foreseeable future is essential to allow queuing outside businesses while keeping shoppers safe and maintain social distancing.
It will also allow traders to ‘spill out’ onto the street – using the paved areas for sales or, as restrictions ease, to help cafes and similar activities.
But town councillor Andy Smith attacked the idea and said he could not believe it was being seriously considered – he said Hamilton Road was the town’s “shop window” and people needed to be able to drive past to see what was open and what was on offer.
He referred back to 1988 when Hamilton Road was closed for six months and “nearly fell on its knees” and the closure was removed just in time.
He said: “For casual visitors to close off the opportunity to see what is available is crazy, that’s our shop window.”
However, Mayor of Felixstowe, Mark Jepson said the idea of closing the road had received “very positive feedback” from traders who believed it was necessary to maintain social distancing and encourage people into the town because they would feel safe.
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Other councillors agreed the road closure was essential and an excellent idea.
Town council officials have been in talks with East Suffolk and believe Felixstowe could get up to £25,000 of grant aid to help with signage, traffic and other temporary measures. Consultation was ongoing and the road closure would not come into force immediately.
Mr Jepson, said: “We will be pleased to see familiar doors opening for business once again and encourage our residents to show their support by buying locally. We will be introducing several changes in the Felixstowe town centre and seafront.
“As soon as we can legally do so the Hamilton Road shared space will be made pedestrian friendly with traffic restrictions in place to assist people to observe social distancing rules and our businesses to trade effectively. Deliveries will have access outside these times and emergency vehicles will always have access. Blue badge parking will remain available nearby on Cobbold Road and other locations.”
Businesses will be implementing their own arrangements for protecting staff and customers.
Visitors to Felixstowe are encouraged to use cycle, walk, or if arriving by car visitors to park in the nearest available car park as there will be restricted on street parking availability.
East Suffolk Council is overseeing local actions, which are being supported by Suffolk County Council Highways and East Suffolk Norse.
East Suffolk assistant cabinet member for economic development, Steve Wiles, said “We are supporting a range of measures across the district and working with partners to ensure our towns can reopen and trade safely. The most important thing is we work together to keep ourselves and each other safe while out and about enjoying our lovely towns as they re-open for business.”