Could electronic signs help ease Ipswich’s car parking congestion problem?

Could reopening Dogs Head Street to general traffic help to ease congestion in the town centre? Pict

Could reopening Dogs Head Street to general traffic help to ease congestion in the town centre? Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

A new bid to install electronic signs telling drivers where there are car parking spaces in Ipswich town centre could be launched during the spring.

The Buttermarket car park entrance - at busy times cars can queue as far as the Willis Building. Pic

The Buttermarket car park entrance - at busy times cars can queue as far as the Willis Building. Picture: PAUL GEATER. - Credit: Archant

The move is set to come after mounting concern about traffic congestion caused by drivers queuing to get into popular town centre car parks – especially at the Buttermarket centre.

Long queues of cars trying to get into that car park have built up in Princes Street, Friars Street and Falcon Street on busy days – making causing long delays for buses heading to the town’s main bus station in the Old Cattle Market.

Police were sponsored by Ipswich and Suffolk councils to keep cars moving outside the car park on the two Saturdays before Christmas.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said: “Borough and County officials are due to report to councillors in the next three months with a blueprint for the future of parking in the town. I have asked this to include the provision of signs that tell motorists where and how many spaces are available – like you see in other towns and cities”

Traffic along Princes Street. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Traffic along Princes Street. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Paul Geater

Buttermarket centre manager Andrew Wilcox said the problems were not new – but had been especially difficult during the run-up to Christmas.

He said: “We know there are problems with cars trying to get into the park. We tell drivers they should not queue on the road but we have no power to enforce that.”

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Part of the problem was that Dog’s Head Street was closed to general traffic so if drivers found the car park was full they had to do a u-turn around a tight mini-roundabout at the Silent Street junction. He felt reopening Dog’s Head Street could ease things because cars could carry on to look for a new place to park.

Mr West was cautious: “We need to look carefully at possible solutions. I’m not convinced that opening Dog’s Head Street would be the answer. But I am prepared to consider that among any other solutions that might be raised.”

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere was delighted to hear the county was now prepared to install electronic signs: “We have been calling for this for years. It is very important for Ipswich – they have done it in Bury St Edmunds so it is time they did it for the county town!”

Bosses from First Eastern Counties have held urgent talks with officials from the county and borough councils because of concerns about the access to the Old Cattle Market bus station.

A spokesman for the bus company said;” Unfortunately, we have been experiencing sometimes significant disruption to our bus network due to increased congestion on the run up to and post-Christmas, especially around the Buttermarket car park entrance.

“This is despite our continuous monitoring of the punctuality of our services and measures being put in place, often at short notice, to try and combat the challenge the car park is causing.

“At recent meetings it was agreed that both Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council, would jointly sponsor additional police enforcement at the car park, to deter drivers from queuing in and blocking the highway in the surrounding area.

“The park and ride service that was launched in July has been vital in helping reduce congestion in the town centre and will continue to have an impact as more and more people use it.

“Local bus services can make a real difference to congestion and air quality, as one bus has the capacity to remove at least 30 cars from the road which could make a real difference to traffic flow in the town.

“With the new year upon us, it’s a great time to think about how we can all make a difference by choosing the way we travel when visiting the town or surrounding areas.”