Vehicles can return to Leighton Buzzard High Street on non-market days while permanent pedestrianisation plan is devised

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Will ANPR cameras be the way ahead for future enforcement?

Vehicles are to be allowed back into Leighton Buzzard High Street on non-market days, along with buses, until a suitable alternative arrangement is reached, a meeting heard.

More work is needed to reach a permanent solution to pedestrianising that part of the town centre, a Central Bedfordshire Council traffic management meeting was told.

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A new experimental traffic regulation order will be prepared to ban traffic on market days for up to the next 18 months.

Vehicles have been in the High Street despite the ban (Photo, Neil Cairns)Vehicles have been in the High Street despite the ban (Photo, Neil Cairns)
Vehicles have been in the High Street despite the ban (Photo, Neil Cairns)

But this order could be stopped at any time, if CBC, for example, had funding to provide automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to enforce which types of vehicle could access the High Street.

The current traffic order for the area was put in place around 18 months ago to support local businesses in the aftermath of a pandemic lockdown.

Access has been controlled by a barrier which was self-managed by traders and other users, but padlocks have been broken or removed, it was revealed at today's meeting. (Tues Feb 1)

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Other vehicles have flouted the regulations when the barrier has been left unlocked, with a lack of enforcement to prevent this.

CBC's sustainable transport and active travel team leader Steve Lakin reminded the meeting when the traffic order was first introduced "it was quite a different time to where we are now".

He described the Lake Street scheme as successful, while "the High Street has been a success but with qualifications".

"There's been a lot of public interest in this scheme," he said. "We've seen a positive benefit as a result of the changes, with more people walking and cycling.

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"There's been a level of abuse of the restriction and an issue with the barriers."

Padlocks have been taken away, he added, while one vehicle going in has been viewed as giving permission for others.

An increase in courier and delivery traffic has led to "a whole stream of vehicles into the High Street", making it difficult to police.

Mayor, Councillor Farzana Kharawala, who chairs Leighton-Linslade Town Council, called for at least a 12-month traffic order to consider various options.

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She said it supports the recommendation to return buses to the High Street for five days a week and moving taxis back to Market Square.

A further recommendation was for "effective management of public compliance to avoid flouting" of the traffic order.

And she proposed that the two councils work together during a 12-month trial period.

But Conservative Arlelsey councillor Ian Dalgarno, who chairs the meeting, opted for a longer timespan of 18 months, enabling decisions not to be rushed.

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Welcoming the town council support, he warned that his decision was not to do place shaping, which "isn't within my gift".

He told the meeting there would be a need to examine how CBC works with all the interested parties, including the local chamber of trade, the bus companies, taxi firms and disabled access groups.

"The traffic order has been extremely successful on market days," he explained.

"Self-regulation (of the barrier) hasn't worked. Much effort and costs have gone in, but this isn't working and is wholly unsafe. It has to be enforceable.

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"We're talking to the bus providers, which need commercially viable services and they're not at present. I've meetings coming up with them.

"We need to find a solution which is self-managing. Disabled bays aren't accessible."

These issues would be "part of that (overall) place shaping", he acknowledged, with ANPR cameras an option "as that comes forward".

He described a new 12 month traffic order as "not long enough", opting instead to impose one for up to 18 months which is the fullest extent.

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"You could make the High Street one way," he speculated. "Then you wouldn't need such a wide road. There's a lot you can do, but that's all place shaping.

"Lake Street has worked. It can be improved with the signage. I'll make that order permanent."

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