Action needed to end Southwold gridlock

Michael Ladd is calling for radical action over Southwold parking problems.Picture: James Bass

Michael Ladd is calling for radical action over Southwold parking problems.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Calls were made this week for 'radical action' to resolve traffic problems in Southwold after the town experienced one of its busiest summers in years.

Michael Ladd, a town, district and county councillor, said fine weather had attracted large numbers of visitors to Southwold throughout the peak holiday season.

But this had caused serious congestion in the town's narrow streets, and he warned things would only get worse as more and more people were travelling to the coast by car.

It comes as the town council prepares to commission a comprehensive traffic review from Suffolk County Council and follows the introduction of temporary restrictions at Southwold Harbour to stop visitors parking inconsiderately along Blackshore.

Mr Ladd said: 'I think because the weather has been good we've had a lot more people in the town and there has been a lot more cars around. There is a progressive increase and there are more and more cars each year.

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'Talking to people in the town, it is probably one of the worst years for traffic and parking that we've had and I don't see that improving.

'It's good for the traders that we've had a good summer but unfortunately that brings all the congestion as well.

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'My own feeling is that we've got to do something radical to deal with the increasing amounts of traffic coming into town.

'It will all come out in the parking review that the town council is in the process of commissioning. We can't carry on as we have done in the past. From a traffic point of view, the town was pretty much at bursting point during the summer.'

Mr Ladd, who is also chairman of the Southwold Millennium Foundation, said 210 spaces had been taken at the occasional car park next to the Stella Peskett Millennium Hall in Mights Road within a few hours of it opening on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend.

He said opening the car park permanently was one of the options being considered by the review, along with how this might be funded.

He added: 'We have seen some particularly bad parking from people and I think the High Street has been fairly congested. The other evening I saw three cars parked round the Market Place pump.

'I've been driving the town shuttle bus on Friday afternoons and I can't get down some roads. We've got to do something or the town will get gridlocked.'

New parking measures to help ensure Southwold Harbour remains accessible for all are to be tried out over the next 18 months after pressure from the harbourmaster and the Southwold Harbour and River Blyth Users' Association (SHRBUA).

Waveney District Council introduced temporary restrictions at Blackshore last month following complaints that visitors parking inconsiderately were causing problems for harbour users by blocking slipways and preventing large equipment, such as boat lifters, from moving around.

The measures include the introduction of a number of designated parking areas and restrict or prohibit parking at some locations.

Sue Allen, a town and district councillor who is also Waveney's representative on SHRBUA, said: 'We've got a perfectly good car park down there and people were happy to use it before it was shut temporarily when we had the work done on the harbour wall.

'It is about reminding them we've got a car park.'

She added: 'People are very thoughtless on the whole and there is no need for it. People were parking both sides of the harbour road all the way along. It was worrying because it is a working harbour, which is one of its attractions, and we don't want any problems or accidents down there.'

Stephen Ardley, Waveney's deputy leader, said the need for parking restrictions was raised after several incidents last year when emergency vehicles were unable to reach the harbour area due to poorly parked cars.

As well as checking existing car parks, parking wardens will now monitor Blackshore and the harbourmaster will also have the authority to issue parking tickets.

The trial regulations will be in place for 18 months and after this, the new parking zones could become permanent.

The county council is currently implementing a number of traffic restrictions in Southwold following a consultation early this year. The new measures, which should be in place by October, will include double yellow lines at the edges of junctions and restrictions in the Blackmill Road area, where problems have been reported.

A traffic monitoring system has also been put in place in Station Road after a request for a zebra crossing from residents at Crick Court, who were struggling to cross the busy road to reach the library, church and the hospital.

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