Harpenden pedestrianisation plans slammed by retailers

Herts County Council wants to trial the pedestrianisation of the service road along the High Street,

Herts County Council wants to trial the pedestrianisation of the service road along the High Street, between Station Road and Vaughan Road, but local retailers like Lara Wares of Threads pictured watching the traffic - Credit: Archant

INDEPENDENT retailers in Harpenden are up in arms about the proposed banning of vehicles from a service road along the Lower High Street.

Opposition from businesses has failed to quash Hertfordshire County Council’s (HCC) bid to spend up to £35,000 on a trial pedestrianisation of the service road stretch of Bower’s Parade between Station Road and Vaughan Road.

In its 2010 Harpenden Urban Transport Plan, HCC suggested banning vehicles from that section of road as there had been problems with cars turning right from Station Road, creating hazardous conditions at the mini-roundabout at the junction with the High Street.

Although at the time Harpenden Town Council (HTC) said members “were totally opposed” to the idea, as it would take away business from retailers and reduce parking, HCC has recently said it wants to try out the scheme.

Lara Wares, owner of Threads, a gift and needlecraft shop on the High Street, said it would cause traffic jams because delivery vehicles would have nowhere near the shops to temporarily stop.

She explained: “It is worrying us because we get between four and 10 deliveries a day, so if they stop on Station Road, it will cause traffic chaos.

“It’s ludicrous, and we need those parking spaces outside Threads. It would be very, very bad for us as unfortunately the service road is where our shop is located.

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“We are one of the largest independent shops on the High Street. I have spoken to other owners and they are not in support of it because it is bad for footfall, and we are in challenging times.”

Her High Street neighbour Sonia Duffy, owner of Perry Florist, added: “I am against it too. It will really affect us. We haven’t been given a timescale for the trial, or when it will run.

“I have big lorries which use the main road, but the smaller vehicles use the service road.”

Sonia’s advice to the county council was: “Don’t do it, leave it as it is.”

Harpenden town clerk, John Bagshaw, has written to HCC to reiterate members’ concern and lack of support for the pedestrianisation. He said the council was, “unconvinced that it is necessary or of benefit to close the service road to vehicles and suggests that better intervention methods be considered by the county council to prevent illegal right turns.”

John said that councillors were concerned about the loss of disabled parking on the road, and that its closure to vehicles might have an adverse affect on the economic viability of this section of the High Street.

A spokesman for HCC said the scheme had been a priority for funding as a result of the urban transport plan.

He added: “The aim is to address the safety issues around the Station Road junction along with the section of the A1081 in this area while also providing an improved environment for pedestrians.”

The council will consult on closing the entrance into the service road, to help reduce the number of U-turns and prevent illegal right-hand turns. It will talk to businesses at a special invitation event, before consulting with the public before spring.

The spokesman said: “This cross-section of views will be taken into account before a decision is reached regarding progressing with a trial.”