Traffic restrictions under scrutiny

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The case for and against traffic restrictions in East Street and Market Square was put to a government inspector this week.

At present, the roads are completely closed to traffic from 10.30am to 4.30pm every day, with access only for loading and for Blue Badge holders at other times.

The public inquiry was called after severallocal residents and businesses objected, citing problems with disabled access and parking, and with access and loading for delivery vehicles.

West Sussex County Council have said that if the inspector supports the scheme then the temporary Traffic Regulation Order will become permanent from September.

If the inspector recommends against the proposal then the road will revert to the previous restrictions, with loading and disabled access allowed all day.

Trevor Ward, representing the council, described East Street as very narrow and said that before traffic was restricted there were serious problems with vehicles and pedestrians trying to share the limited space.

He handed inspector Alan Boyland photos of the road, showing pavements and the cycle lane blocked by parked cars, with pedestrians and cyclists picking their way through as best they could.

Pedro Martins, of Bill’s Restaurant in Market Square, said the experimental order had been good for his business, with lack of traffic allowing customers to enjoy the ‘cafe culture’ experience - at least until late afternoon.

“Our customers get upset, and we get frustrated, every time we have to remove the chairs and tables,” he said.

Other speakers pointed out that cafe culture is not entirely compatible with the UK’s weather.

Local shopper Pearl Flack said: “For a couple of weeks of the year we’ve had summer. It’s not Spain, it’s not Italy, it’s not France.”

She said that her husband often treats himself to a polypin from Beer Essentials, for which they really need to be able to park as close to the shop as possible.

Gareth Jones, of Beer Essentials, said he had consistently opposed the ‘flawed and ill-considered’ traffic restrictions.

He said they harm his trade, both by making life harder for customers, and by putting an obstacle in the path of suppliers making deliveries.

Peter Owles, a former transport manager with mobility issues, said the town centre’s cobbles - very unpleasant for a wheelchair user - make it hard for him to get to East Street if he cannot drive there.