‘It’s terrible’ - controversial closures provoke town centre uproar
- Credit: Sonya Duncan/Simon Marjoram
“Nightmare” road closures put in place to help social distancing have been slammed by frustrated businesses and shoppers.
People living in Harleston and visitors say the coronavirus-related closures and diversions are not fit for purpose - and are having a detrimental impact on local trade.
But South Norfolk Council (SNC) maintains the changes, introduced in June “with the public’s health in mind”, are designed to boost confidence among customers.
Yet many argue the opposite result has been achieved, with some drivers put off driving into town altogether following the closure of several streets including part of The Thoroughfare.
“Everything about it is terrible,” said Simon Marjoram, an electrician who runs All Things Greener on Union Street.
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“To get from one end to another, you have to take a three-mile detour on the bypass. But instead of doing that, people are going through the Co-op car park.
“There are signs telling people to take a diversion, when there is no diversion. Where we live we are having to rescue visitors whose sat navs are confused.
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“We are reliant on people from surrounding villages coming in. Instead people are saying ‘we cannot be bothered, we’ll go somewhere else’.”
Charles Murray, who lives in Botesdale, is one of those who will be taking his custom elsewhere after a recent visit led to a wrong turn down a one-way street.
The 71-year-old said: “It is probably better for people who are from Harleston and know what’s going on, but for me it was an absolute nightmare.
“Personally I cannot see the point of closing the roads - it is making things more confusing. We won’t go back until things are back how they were.”
But Robin Twigge, owner of The Swan Hotel, disagrees, adding: “I think it’s really fantastic and the way the town looks is excellent, especially from the point of view of tourists coming into Harleston.
“The signage is slowly disappearing and people seem to be gradually getting used to it.”
An SNC spokesman said: “The restriction of traffic in The Thoroughfare remains in place to facilitate safe social distancing.
“We acknowledge some of these changes have caused disruption, but they have been implemented with the public’s health in mind to help social distancing. This increases the confidence of people to return to the high street.”
Measures will be lifted with the agreement of the town, district and county council.