Traders slam Southwold roadworks that coincide with Latitude Festival
Plans to start major roadworks in Southwold on the day after the Latitude Festival ends have been condemned as 'ludicrous' by traders.
The work, which forms part of the controversial scheme to relocate a bus stop in High Street, will begin on Monday, July 18 – which traders say is one of the busiest days of the year for Southwold.
Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold and District Chamber of Trade, said the day after Latitude was an important for local shops and busineses as hundreds of people leaving the festival would be visiting the town.
He claims the roadworks will not only cause traffic chaos the day, but put people off from visiting again.
Mr Mitchell, sub-postmaster of Southwold post office and owner of Spots gift shop, said: 'Suffolk County Council is riding roughshod over the needs of businesses who are dependent upon tourism. If they cannot complete the works prior to the peak tourist season commencing, then they should delay them until September.
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'It is scarcely believable that works the council say will alleviate traffic problems are being scheduled at a time when they are likely to maximise disruption. It has not been thought through.
'We flagged dates to the council in advance and they have taken no notice of our request.'
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Suffolk County Council has already put up sign warning motorists to expect delays on July 18.
On that day, thousands of festival-goers are expected to be leaving Latitude, which takes place next week at Henham Park from Thursday, July 14, to Sunday, July 17.
A council spokesman said: 'We've chosen July 18 as Latitude Festival finishes on July 17. Southwold Town Council wants this work to go ahead and it wants this work to happen before the schools break up on July 22.'
The roadworks, including line painting and the relocation of loading bays, are being carried out as part of the scheme to temporarily move a High Street bus stop. It is being moved from outside Chapman newsagents to the King's Head pub, thereby preventing buses from driving through the narrow street.
Southwold Town Council hopes the 18-month trial will help to ease the town's bad summer congestion.
However, the timing of the work has come in for fierce criticism.
Mr Mitchell said he feared people who came into the town when there were roadworks at both ends of the High Street and 'parking bays in disarray', would never want to visit Southwold again.
'Many visitors may be coming for the first time – without a good first impression, it may be their last,' he said.
'Tourism is worth �1.75bn to the Suffolk economy and employs over 30,000 people – this is not just a minor disruption but will have major effect on one of Suffolk's key industries.'
Robert Adey, owner of Trinity's tea room and cafe in the High Street, added: 'The day after Latitude is one of the busiest for the town and we know that by looking back at figures from 2007 when the festival started.
'A lot of people packing up and leaving the festival come into Southwold not only to spend money that day, but see it as somewhere they can come back to in the future.
'To have roadworks on a day of such importance is absolutely ludicrous. It's crazy to think the council doesn't seem to have the best interest of local traders in mind.'
In response to the traders' claims, Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning said: 'Southwold is one of the jewels in the crown in Suffolk and there has been concern for some time about the management of traffic particularly in the busy summer season.
'There is an issue about the appropriateness of the bus routes serving the town, and also about the way that day visitors travelling by bus are able to alight. We understand there are reservations from businesses and residents about this scheme, but we stress that this is experimental order for 18 months to see the affect of the changes.
'As part of this process, businesses and residents will have the opportunity to voice any objections to the proposals, and they will be fully and properly considered before they are permanently implemented. We are grateful towards the Town Council for their contribution of �10,000. I have also taken the opportunity of consulting the police and advising Therese Coffey MP of our plans.'
However, Mr McGregor did not refer to the roadworks coinciding with the end of the Latitude Festival.