Calls for High Street to be Closed to Non-Essential Vehicles

Former Mayor and Councillor Richard Hobbs has called for the High Street to be closed during the current Coronavirus pandemic as more shops in Ely begin to reopen from Monday.

Some non-essential shops have been given permission to reopen from Monday 15th June and Ely Market reopened this week on Thursdays and Saturdays but only to food and garden stalls.

Some shops to open on Monday include Sew Much To Do, Well Heeled and Cutlacks. Every store must practise social distancing and this will include making customers queue should the store requirements need it. So what does this mean for the narrow pathways on Ely High Street which is controlled by Cambridgeshire County Council?

In a Facebook post, Mr Hobbs said, “Is it time we considered making our High Street free from through traffic. Social distancing is going to be with us long after our shops open. I know I feel safer on Saturday’s and I’m sure our shopkeepers want to encourage us back to Ely. I urge both traders and councillors to consider and evaluate the advantages of closing our High Street to through traffic and use the model we use on Saturdays.”

In response to the post, East Cambridgeshire District Councillor Lis Every stated: “We are looking into it”.

Former Councillor, Elaine Griffin-Singh further commented with a summary of the second review performed by Cambridgeshire County Council. The date of the last review was about 10 years.

“Thing is, it couldn’t be like a Saturday. The CCC Review concluded that there was a number of statutory exclusions from pedestrianisation. It identified that all the deliveries including postal deliveries, and shoppers collecting (from say Hughes) will have to come through, it was said you couldn’t stop disabled traffic getting to the disabled bays which must remain, taxis must have thoroughfare because disabled people need to be dropped in the High Street, a lot of residents live above who need to sometimes service their homes who must be given access, there are a number of financial institutions, banks and building societies and it is a legal requirement that they must have secure close access to move money. The difference between Ely and other places is we have no roadway ‘backs’ to shops so everything must be done from the front. Saturdays were possible as shops were forced to cease deliveries and movements for just one day and it being the weekend.

“Despite there being some stiff opposition from some High Street shopkeepers, which might have changed although those ones are still there, it was concluded the last time that by the time you make all the required allowances, you have only banned minimal through traffic so not achieved the “Saturday feeling” whilst inconveniencing the shopper or resident who has to go the long way round. It also had a detrimental effect on Broad Street as it changed the traffic flow.

“Before the City Council spend a lot of time on this again, they should probably get the file out and read the Review, I cannot see that anything has changed.”

Elaine Griffin-Singh, Commented on the Facebook Post

Many of the pavements measure less than 2 metres wide at many of the shops along the thoroughfare and this morning we witnessed many people having to use the road to maintain the Governments mandatory 2-metre social distance rules.

Several people of replied to the post, including Tony who said “An excellent idea – the City must do all it can to bring confidence back to a fearful society” and Verity said, “I’ve been thinking about this over the past few weeks. Social distancing will be very difficult up the high street as all the queues will get mixed up. If it were pedestrianised you could queue across the road instead of the pavement.”

Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council and County Councillor, said: “We will be closely monitoring public feedback on the reopening of the high street and will be making adjustments where necessary to ensure shopper safety.”

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