City centre road closures should be implemented again in a matter of weeks, despite widespread opposition to the scheme.

Herts county council (HCC) will be closing High Street, George Street and Market Place for an 18-month experiment into pedestrianisation at the end of October.

The initial closures will see George Street shut all week, with High Street only closed at weekends. But from January to June both roads will be closed seven days a week.

Market Place, Spencer Street and Upper Dagnall Street will be closed permanently throughout the trial.

Delays in procuring the specially-fabricated gates for the different streets have held up the closures from previous planned dates of April, June and August, but they are now expected to be introduced in the next few weeks.

In July, 4,463 letters were sent out by HCC to residents in the area around the city centre offering them the opportunity to comment on the introduction of Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETRO) for High Street and George Street.

Key internal and external stakeholders, including the emergency services, public transport operators and residents' groups were also contacted via email.

HCC received 85 responses in total: 75 were from residents, seven from businesses, one from St Albans School and one from Historic England.

Increased traffic was mentioned in 41 emails, followed by 26 mentioning air quality and 16 highlighting emergency services.

Of these, 26 (30 per cent) supported the trials, while 42 (49 per cent) were opposed. For the other 16 responses, support or opposition to the scheme could not be determined.

18 responses indicated support for the closure of both High Street and George Street, 7 responses suggested closing George Street but keeping High Street open, 20 emails stated an objection.

Phil Corrigan, manager of The Maltings Shopping Centre, said: "These proposed road closures seem to be going ahead with very limited consultation and no consideration for city centre businesses outside of the very few who were consulted. A number of businesses throughout the city, including Christopher Place and St Albans Chamber of Commerce have concerns about the wider impact of this.

"HCC have not responded to reasonable requests for information supporting this proposal and why an 18-month experiment? Surely the impact of this can be assessed in a much shorter period.

"While there may be an argument to restrict vehicles on the smaller roads surely not the main A-road through the city, which will just cause congestion elsewhere."

Herts Advertiser: Road closures were initially introduced post-lockdown to promote social distancing.Road closures were initially introduced post-lockdown to promote social distancing. (Image: Archant)

A survey of St Albans Chamber of Commerce members found only 15 per cent had been consulted about the proposed closures and 64 per cent of respondents were against the closure of the High Street, with 70 per cent thinking it would cause disruption and congestion.

During the trial, emergency services will have to navigate up to four locked gates to reach south-west areas of St Albans, and with fire engines requiring a 4m channel down George Street there will not be room for outside dining everywhere, which was highlighted as one of the advantages of the closure.

County council chairman Annie Brewster said: "Despite all the concerns raised, it appears St Albans district councillors and officers have given the green light for an 18-month trial to begin in our city.

"I continue to receive correspondence from our major shops and businesses who fear traffic congestion will cause their vital visitors to stay away, from residents who will either be impacted by displaced traffic or stuck in jams when trying to leave home, and from all quarters who fear fire and ambulance crews will no longer possess the ability to reach all city destinations within the optimum recommended safe times."

The city centre road closures were originally introduced for social distancing post-lockdown.

During the trial the experimental measures will be evaluated and a decision made on whether to make them permanent.

HCC will be using Vivacity sensors in the High Street to anonymously track how people are using the space.

Automatic traffic counts will monitor vehicles along Folly Lane and Catherine Street, as well as speed and volume counts along King Harry Lane, Old London Road, Holywell Hill, Verulam Road, Carlisle Avenue and Waverley Road.

The county council will also monitor car park usage, surveying businesses, along with using Google data to track traffic issues across a wider area, and introduce sensors to assess the air quality in the city.