Should buses be kept out of Ipswich's Upper Brook Street?

Upper Brook Street

Buses and traders are on opposite sides of the debate into the future of Upper Brook Street. - Credit: Archant

A battle is developing between town centre businesses and bus companies over the future of Ipswich's Upper Brook Street - and whether its closure to traffic should be made permanent.

The street was closed to traffic at the start of the first lockdown in March last year and although it is now open again at off-peak times, vehicles remain banned during peak hours.

Most businesses along the street welcome this because Upper Brook Street has comparatively narrow pavements and the closure gives shoppers more space and gives them confidence to observe social distancing.

In the medium term, they hope the character of the street could change allowing restaurants and cafés to have more outdoor tables.

However, until March last year Upper Brook Street was on key bus routes to the east of Ipswich and to towns like Woodbridge, Leiston and Aldeburgh - and the bus stop by the junction with the Buttermarket street was very busy and was especially useful for people with mobility issues because it is in the heart of the town centre.

Ipswich Buses has urged Suffolk County Council to reopen the street to their vehicles. The future of the street was the subject of a public consultation that ended this week.

Ipswich Central is representing the view of the majority of its members in the street who want to see the closure made permanent with a barrier erected at the junction with Tavern Street and Carr Street to prevent any through traffic.

In a letter to the county as part of the consultation, chief executive Paul Clement said: "There is virtually no appetite for a reversion back to what was there before the temporary arrangements.

"Businesses have found that they have overcome any initial challenges such as required changes to loading/unloading times. They have reported that they now have more customers, and that those customers stay longer and spend more."

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Ipswich council - which owns Ipswich Buses - is continuing to talk to the county about the future of the street.

Sarah Barber, portfolio holder for the town centre, said: "This is a difficult issue. We can see for the businesses and pedestrians closing the street would be an improvement - but there are the concerns about bus access, especially for those with mobility problems.

"There are also issues for waste collection which would be much easier if the road was open."