Traffic blow for Lowestoft shops

Shoppers fed up with congestion on Lowestoft's traffic-choked roads are deserting the town for Beccles or Yarmouth, it has been claimed.

SHOPPERS fed up with congestion on Lowestoft's traffic-choked roads are deserting the town for Beccles or Yarmouth, it has been claimed.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard and a town centre trade leader said they believed months of roadworks in central Lowestoft had taken their toll and that shops in neighbouring towns were proving attractive to many people.

Mr Blizzard stressed he understood the need for the works, but felt they were not being properly planned and revealed he had written to the chief executives of Waveney District and Suffolk County councils calling for a review of the way projects are handled and to consider the wider community more carefully.

It comes as the town prepares for the next phase of major roadworks from January 5, which will see cars diverted off London Road South for more than three months.

Later in January, a major year-long project to repair and refurbish the Bascule Bridge will begin, which will lead to some temporary lane closures.

Mr Blizzard questioned why road contractors could not work later into the night under lamps and said consideration should be given to changing lane priorities over the bridge, depending on the time of the day.

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He said: “Shops are having an extremely difficult time and have experienced a downturn in trade because of the acute disruption that has gone on for so long.

“People in south Lowestoft say they are giving up on travelling into town and are going to Beccles, while people in north Lowestoft are going to Yarmouth.

“I know the roadworks need to be done, but I can't help thinking there must be a better way of managing them so we don't get the acute disruption that has been going on for months and months. The town is being hit hard and I am worried about this.”

Mr Blizzard added the problems once again highlighted the need for a third crossing in Lowestoft and said in the meantime areas like Oulton Broad were being used as rat-runs.

Peter Cook, vice-chairman of the Lowestoft High Street traders' association, said he was also aware that frustrated shoppers were heading to neighbouring towns.

Mr Cook, who runs the Cook's home furnishing business, added: “The town is coming to a standstill at the moment and the road system is still not working very well. The problems have particularly affected our London Road South branch because traffic in that area is at a standstill.”

Paul Moss, project manager for the Sunrise Scheme, which is regenerating Lowestoft's shopping and seafront areas, said the latest roadworks were vital to allow the town to cope with the influx of traffic expected over the next 10 years. The work along the seafront area will force motorists to use the new relief road, opened earlier this year, to travel between the north and south of the town.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: “We are satisfied that the programme is being managed well and everything is being done to keep disruption to a minimum. There is not a single piece of work being carried out that is not essential to the future of Lowestoft.”

Councillor Guy McGregor, who is responsible for roads and transport at Suffolk County Council, said Mr Blizzard's comments were “unhelpful” and also slammed his demands for contractors to work longer hours under lights.

He added: “Lowestoft is an old town and the infrastructure needs replacing.”