MEMBERS of Bridport Business Chamber are calling on the town council to use the £50,000 earmarked for a trial closure of South Street on improvements in the town.
A consultation to gather residents and business owners’ views on the closure and pedestrianisation of the top of South Street, as well as views on town centre speed limits, is currently underway.
The town council state that the possible closure and pedestrianisation of the street from Gundry Lane is an issue that is often raised, and the council included a proposal to consult on the options for South Street in its current town plan.
Councillors feel that to accurately assess the impact of the closure of South Street, a temporary trial closure for up to three months should be considered.
Dorset County Council, the highway authority, will have to approve any changes, but if it goes ahead, it is estimated that order making and signage could cost between £20,000 and £50,000.
Members of Bridport Business Chamber do not support the trial closure, which could take place from March to May next year, as it could cause potential risk to safety, more traffic congestion and the closure of independent shops.
They do however feel that if the town centre speed limit is reduced to 20mph, that will have a positive effect.
Chamber president Robert Mühl, of Ocean Bathrooms, said: “We would like the town council to focus instead on improvements to car parking, park and ride, public transport and town centre signage – any of which we feel would be better use of this public money.
“It is crucial to think about where the extra traffic will go if access to the top of South Street is removed – any town centre road closure puts huge stress onto alternative routes.
“A member of the chamber recently recorded over 3,000 vehicles using South Street over the course of just one day and these will have to go somewhere else if South Street is closed.”
The chamber feels alternative routes such as the A35/Sea Road South, Gundry Lane, Skilling and Victoria Grove are not fit for purpose to take extra vehicles, especially lorries, and will soon become overwhelmed, causing even more traffic congestion in the town centre.
With Gundry Lane housing a preschool, garage and removal company, as well as being a pedestrian route for locals and visitors walking to the town centre, the chamber are concerned that safety could be severely compromised, especially as the lane has a narrow pavement and visibility is limited for vehicles turning into it.
In addition, owners of the town centre based companies have expressed fears for their future, claiming that if the proposed closure goes ahead, independent shops could close if they experience a drop in revenue.
The chamber’s full response can be found at www.bridportbusiness.org.uk
Town clerk Bob Gillis said: “The town council has been keen to ensure that the chamber and town centre businesses were aware of the consultation and were given every opportunity to comment.
“The town council attended meetings of the chamber before the consultation started and local town centre businesses were notified when it got underway.
“The town council wants to hear from all businesses, local organisations, statutory agencies, residents and visitors as part of the consultation, which is open until October 1st.
“The chamber’s comments and all the responses received will be fully considered by the town council.
“The evaluation report will be published in October and then the town council will decide whether to make a recommendation to the highways authority, Dorset County Council, on all the matters in the consultation.”
More information can be found at www.bridport-tc.gov.uk where the questionnaire can also be completed, with hard copies also available from Bridport Library, Mountfield and Bridport Tourist Information centre.
There will also be an opportunity to complete it and find out more at the town council’s stand in the Bridport marquee at the Melplash Show on Thursday (August 24th).