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Impact of Woods Lane closure in Melton has ‘lived up to expectations’

PUBLISHED: 07:07 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 07:07 15 November 2017

The Woods Lane closure has drawn significant opposition from people in east Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Woods Lane closure has drawn significant opposition from people in east Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Fears the closure of a major Suffolk road would bring widespread disruption have been realised, according to a poll.

Geoff Holdcroft has suggested parking at Suffolk Coastal's old offices could alleviate problems. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYGeoff Holdcroft has suggested parking at Suffolk Coastal's old offices could alleviate problems. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Nearly 400 people took part in our survey about the closure of Woods Lane in Melton, which began last Monday, and was scheduled to last 16 weeks either side of Christmas as part of Bloor Homes’ Longwood Fields development.

Some feared the closure would cause “car-mageddon” and more than 3,000 people signed a petition calling for “compromise” to minimise disruption.

Our poll asked people how the first week of closure had matched expectations. The greatest number of respondents, 38%, felt it had been as bad as anticipated, 32% thought it had been worse, and 30% said it had been better. When asked about the average delay to their journeys, 40% said it added up to 15 minutes, 41% said it was between 15-30 minutes and 19% claimed their journey were more than half an hour.

Katy Bell, who created the community petition, said she lost around an hour every day stuck in traffic. “Our biggest fear was always that our elected officials didn’t have their eye on the ball and for me that’s been borne out with what’s happened this week,” she said.

While she acknowledged the congestion was “manageable” at quieter times, she added the A12 was like a “car park” during rush hour and the junction between Ufford and Melton had become like “hell on earth”.

“A lot of people are also saying that they’re changing their behaviour because of the closure and avoiding visiting places like Woodbridge,” she added. “I think it’s going to hit businesses quite hard.”

Geoff Holdcroft, a Woodbridge town councillor who wrote an open letter condemning the closure, said it had “probably lived up to expectations”.

He said that while many problems had been expected – extra troubles had also emerged, such as the congestion in Melton Hill caused by motorists turning right into Pytches Road.

Results of the poll on Woods Lane closure. Picture: APESTERResults of the poll on Woods Lane closure. Picture: APESTER

Mr Holdcroft suggested the old district council headquarters in Melton Hill may need to be used for parking to ease congestion. He said he would be meeting with colleagues at Suffolk County Council to discuss what lessons could be learned from the first phase of the closure.

Melton parish councillor Buffy Barrington added that another unintended consequence had seen vehicles using Saddlemakers Lane in the village, leading to at least two accidents this week.

“It’s appalling,” she added. “It’s a narrow county lane and people are driving very fast down it.”

She said the problems that have arisen were “exactly why we fought this application in the first place”.

Results of the poll on Woods Lane closure. Picture: APESTERResults of the poll on Woods Lane closure. Picture: APESTER

“The trouble is everyone is now resigned to the situation and it could happen all over again with the Yarmouth Road,” she added, referring to a separate application for hundreds more homes in the village.

‘Others have told us it’s been much better than they thought’

Highways bosses and developers say they want to minimise disruption.

Suffolk County Council said it had been closely monitoring traffic flows in the area.

“We’re currently reviewing this information to see what changes can be made to ease congestion where possible,” a spokesman added.

“Much like the newspaper’s poll, we’ve had a really mixed response. Some people have experienced frustrating delays, whilst others have told us it’s been much better than they thought.

“Our priority is to make sure Bloor Homes and all the utilities currently working on Woods Lane keep to schedule and are off the highway as quickly as possible.”

Bloor Homes has revised diversion routes in response to concerns raised at a public meeting and is consulting on whether to have 24/7 working during phase two of the project to minimise disruption.

The company has previously apologised for any inconvenience caused during the works.

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