What do you think? Crucial meeting to help decide the future of Southwold’s ‘bus ban’

A controversial 'bus ban' that has prompted mixed views in Southwold will enter a crucial phase next week when the town council decides if it should back moves to make it permanent.

Members of Southwold Town Council will meet on Tuesday night to discuss a public consultation over the trial scheme, which sought to curb congestion by stopping large buses driving up High Street.

But in making their decision, they will debate whether or not the town would benefit from a new shuttle bus – which would transport people up and down High Street if the 'ban' became permanent.

The mayor of Southwold, Michael Ladd, said councillors would use the public meeting at the Town Hall at 7.30pm, to discuss the consultation feedback before deciding whether or not to back the scheme.

However, the meeting has already come under criticism from a transport pressure group amid concerns that the council's decision will be based on public opinion, rather than an 'objective' survey of bus passengers.

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The 18-month experimental trial scheme – paid for with �10,000 of the town council's money and match-funded by Suffolk County Council – is designed to improve traffic flow by curbing the number of large vehicles travelling along the town's High Street between Victoria Street and the Market Place.

But businesses in Southwold have remained sceptical about the bus ban, which they feared would stifle trade.

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Mr Ladd said: 'We are looking to collect all the letters together to discuss what views people have and whether they think it has been a positive or negative scheme.

'We have had a look at the shuttle bus. It is about three years old and has disabled access.'

A traffic working group revealed during a council meeting on July 31 that talks were ongoing with the county council about a shuttle bus service. It was confirmed that a proposal had been made for a 16-seater bus, which would operate on a non-profit basis and cost �1,500 a year to run.

The idea was mooted as a potential solution for some passengers who had to walk further up High Street with their shopping after the town centre bus stop was moved from outside Chapman's News to the King's Head pub.

Rod Lock, secretary of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, said: 'We want the experimental traffic order to be based on objective evidence, not on whether or not people think it is a good idea.

'We have said to Southwold Town Council that the decision should be made on a before and after situation. They should have recorded the movement of bus passengers before the service was put in place and a year after the trial order was implemented.

'We are a bit fearful as to what criteria will be used to make a formal decision.'

A final decision on whether the scheme should be made permanent will be made by Suffolk County Council.

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