Harpenden traders continue fighting ‘crackpot’ car ban scheme

Threads owner Lara Wares, Threads employee Jane Atkinson, Lara's husband Rodger Hannah and Threads e

Threads owner Lara Wares, Threads employee Jane Atkinson, Lara's husband Rodger Hannah and Threads employee Katerina Krkosova with petitions outside the shop - Credit: Archant

AS the row over an “ill-thought-out” proposal to ban cars from a service road parallel to Harpenden’s High Street escalates, an alternative scheme for a shared zone has been suggested.

The Harpenden Society has mooted that the Lower High Street between Station Road and Thompsons Close could become ‘shared space’ for both pedestrians and vehicles.

As recently revealed by the Herts Advertiser, retailers have been up in arms about Herts county council’s (HCC) proposal to introduce pedestrianisation of the service road between Station Road and Vaughan Road, with a trial of the scheme to cost up to £35,000.

After this newspaper exclusively broke the story, shop owners were inundated with customers calling for a petition fighting the bid.

As a result, hundreds of shoppers have now signed a recently launched petition opposing the proposal which cites fears that any such change would affect local businesses.

Retailers said that reducing parking would affect disabled shoppers, and banning vehicles would be a nightmare for delivery trucks, which would be forced to stop on the High Street or Station Road, adding to existing traffic congestion woes.

Chris Marsden, chairman of the Harpenden Society, said the organisation was “sympathetic” to local retailers’ fears.

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He said having shared space would be more practical, as traffic could still access the road and car parks could remain.

Chris explained: “Minimal expenditure would be needed. Initially signs indicating the new arrangement and perhaps a five-mph speed limit would be useful.”

He said that with the relocation of the library to the former Argos site on the High Street, “it is important that the road immediately in front of the library becomes safer so that young families and older people have the confidence to walk around the entrance area and across to the concourse freely. Shared space would enable this to happen.”

Keith Lunn, chairman of the Harpenden Retail Partnership, said the council seemed to, “go ahead with things without consulting businesses”. Retailers were “very upset” about the scheme, he added.

Lara Wares, owner of Threads on the High Street, said she had collected 200 signatures for the petition adding, “a lot of people are against losing disabled parking spaces”.

St Albans district councillor for Harpenden West, Michael Weaver, warned that such experiments could have a damaging affect on local trade and residents had criticised it as very ill thought out.

He encouraged residents to sign the petition opposing the pedestrianisation which one shopkeeper had told him was a “crackpot scheme”.

Jelling Moxley, owner of Thorns on the High Street said: “It’s not France, it’s not a warm country, so we don’t need to pedestrianise the street.”

But county councillor for Harpenden South West Teresa Heritage defended the county’s scheme.

She said barring all vehicles from the service road would “remove pedestrian and vehicular conflicts”.

Cllr Heritage explained: “The main objective is to remove the confusion of the no-right turn from Station Road, a major safety concern in this area, thus reducing traffic conflicts at the Station Road/High Street junction.

“This could also be a precursor to removing vehicles from other parts of the town such as Thompsons Close.”