St Albans city centre road closures causing chaos for confused motorists

A car driving over the pavement into Waddington Road, St Albans

A car driving over the pavement into Waddington Road after making its way from High Street against the one-way system. - Credit: Matt Adams

Confused motorists are driving across pedestrianised stretches of the city centre after being caught out in road closure chaos - risking shoppers' safety in the process.

High Street, George Street, Market Place and part of Verulam Road are currently closed to traffic as part of a Herts county council (HCC) scheme to promote social distancing, but access is granted between 7am-11am for deliveries.

But this means some drivers are entering High Street and, unable to continue into the Peahen junction, are turning up Market Place looking for a way out.

In just one half-hour period this week, three drivers made this dangerous manoeuvre, going against the one-way system from Dagnall Street to Spencer Street and entering the pedestrianised stretch of St Peter's Street, forcing shoppers to take evasive action to avoid the unexpected vehicles.

This car drove through the pedestrianised section of St Peter's Street, St Albans.

This car drove up Market Place, against the one-way system between Dagnall Street and Spencer Street, onto the pedestrianised section of St Peter's Street, and finally over the pavement into Waddington Road. - Credit: Matt Adams

One motorist rejoined the carriageway outside Waterstones, but two were seen driving down the narrow pavement alley leading into Waddington Road.

Cllr Annie Brewster is calling for both HCC and St Albans district council (SADC) to work together to prepare detailed, evidenced and funded future schemes that could involve full closure, part-closure, weekend closure or summer closure of all or some of these roads, and to reopen them while this work is carried out.

She said: "This is most alarming. Clearly it is vital to have access for deliveries to our wonderful shops and businesses and this must not be compromised.

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"However, as more people return to visit St Albans post-lockdown, such confusion is likely when so many, previously well-used roads remain closed.

"We are waiting a response from the specially convened St Albans City Centre Project Board to see if they recommend all or some of the roads to reopen."

The final say on whether the closures will carry on for a further 12-18 months requires the 100 per cent agreement of this board, which is made up of county councillors Chris White, Sandy Walkington and Helen Campbell, alongside St Albans BID manager Denise Parsons, district councillor Anthony Rowlands, HCC executive member for highways and transport Cllr Phil Bibby and an officer from both SADC and HCC.

Tony Marmo, head of commercial and development at St Albans district council said:  “The gates are opened and closed as needed for things like market operations and waste collections, and the council’s parking team, the BID and Veolia all have keys.

"There are several signs in place to say that there is no public access at this location currently, and a telephone number to call in case of an issue. There are also blue light emergency access arrangements in place. 

“We are looking into what may have happened on this occasion – there have been a number of circumstances where the parking team, who check the gates regularly, have found them to be open when they should be closed.

"We are operating the gates on behalf of the county council and will see what we can do to improve the situation, as clearly safety is of paramount importance.”