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Opposition members urge council to reinstate permanent traffic ban

Opposition councillors are continuing their fight for a 24-hour traffic ban to be reinstated in Newbury town centre.

Vehicles were prohibited from driving along Northbrook Street and Market Place between June 1 and September 7 to make it easier for pedestrians to follow social distancing guidelines.

However, there have been calls by many to make it a permanent feature, with supporters saying that it would improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions in the town.

West Berkshire Council has so far resisted those calls and said it was only ever meant to be a temporary measure.

At a full council meeting on Thursday, September 10, Green Party councillor David Marsh put forward a motion and urged the Conservatives to “please do the right thing and give the town centre back to the people”.

Making his case, Mr Marsh said: “In summary, a 24-hour traffic-free zone in Newbury is good for business and popular with shoppers; it makes social distancing easier, and our town centre cleaner, healthier, safer and quieter, in line with Government policy on active travel and with our own environment strategy.

“I took some photographs on Monday just before and after the traffic returned.

“At 4.57pm, Northbrook Street was still fairly busy with shoppers, some with pushchairs, mainly socially distancing.

“Within four minutes, there was a queue of cars, engines running at the bridge, and everyone had fled to the pavement.

“It’s dangerous, as well as unhealthy, to facilitate a rat-run through the town centre at 5pm, when the shops are still open.

“Before long it will be dark by that time.

“How would members feel if a child were hit by a vehicle turning the blind corner into Mansion House Street this winter?

“The town council’s shoppers’ survey found that, with people who regularly visit the town centre, by far the most popular option was to keep the new arrangements.

“If you think about it, this is just common sense.

“Who in their right mind wants to sit outside Costa or Côte breathing in exhaust fumes with their cup of coffee or glass of wine?”

However, his hope that his motion would be debated was dashed after the council’s head of legal services, Sarah Clarke, informed him that members were unable to do so.

It was instead referred to the council’s Transport Advisory Group for consideration before going back to executive later this year.

Mr Marsh’s Green Party colleague, Carolyne Culver asked: “I was just wondering if you could explain for the benefit of members of the public why this motion won’t be debated this evening?”

To which Mrs Clarke replied: “The constitution sets out clearly how the council will deal with any motion and it basically states where matters relate to executive functions they must be referred to the executive without debate.

“Otherwise they can be referred to other relevant committees.

“The motion proposed by councillor Marsh is seeking, in effect, road closures in the district and these are matters that are firmly with the executive.

“Therefore the council does not have authority this evening to pass a motion effectively closing highways.”



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