Harpenden retailers celebrate victory over vehicle ban

Lara Wares of Threads pictured watching the traffic

Lara Wares of Threads pictured watching the traffic - Credit: Archant

HARPENDEN retailers are celebrating after successfully pushing the county council into dropping a controversial plan to ban vehicles from a service road along the Lower High Street.

Shop owners and managers swung into action when they learned of Herts county council’s (HCC) bid to spend up to £35,000 on a trial pedestrianisation of the service road between Station Road and Vaughan Road.

The council said vehicles should be banned from that stretch in front of shops 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.

Despite opposition from Harpenden town council (HTC) the county council said it would pursue the trial.

But determined retailers fought back by organising a petition against the scheme, signed by over 1,200 people, and presented it at a recent public meeting on the trial organised by county councillor for Harpenden south west, Teresa Heritage.

As a result, Cllr Heritage said that retailers had since been assured that, “it was never the intention of the council to impose a scheme on the town if it was not supported.

“At the end of the meeting I did not consider that it was the right time to introduce a scheme of this nature, and I told the highways officers of my view.

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“I am pleased to say that they have listened to the views of the community and the trial scheme will not be progressed.”

Lara Wares, owner of Threads, a gift and needlecraft shop on the High Street, thanked fellow retailers, customers and others who supported the petition along with, “the Herts Advertiser for highlighting the issue”.

Lara said she was pleasantly “surprised” at the outcome as she had assumed that HCC would ignore the petition.

She said people had written comments on the petition, expressing fears that shops might close as a result of the traffic ban and that adjacent parking would be lost including for visitors who are disabled.

Retailers submitted evidence about a likely decline in trade should pedestrianisation go ahead.

During a weekend prior to the public meeting the service road was closed to traffic for maintenance. As a result trade at nearby shops dropped significantly by between 20 and 40 per cent. Cllr Heritage said that evidence “was so compelling that I am pleased to say highways officers agreed with me that the trial should not be progressed.”

Lara praised the councillor for listening to retailers, and Keith Lunn, chairman of the Harpenden Retail Partnership, added: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s great they have consulted, and I’m pleased the council has listened to our concerns.”

Cllr Heritage said, however, that “measures to remove the pedestrian and vehicular conflicts at the Vaughan Road junction will have to be introduced”.

But she would, “continue to talk to retailers about any proposals that are drawn up, to minimise any affect on their businesses.

“The vitality and viability of the businesses in town are important to me and I would never do anything that would cause any of our shops to fail.”