Business group hits out at plan for pre-Christmas road closures

PUBLISHED: 07:59 04 November 2019 | UPDATED: 07:59 04 November 2019

The Slade bridge running beneath the High Street in Saffron Walden. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

The Slade bridge running beneath the High Street in Saffron Walden. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

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Saffron Walden Business Improvement District (BID) has hit out at Essex County Council (ECC), after proposals to close the town's High Street during the busy Christmas shopping period were revealed.

Green - diversion route from south of closure; Blue - diversion route from north of closure; Red - road closure; Pink - direction of traffic to be reversed. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.Green - diversion route from south of closure; Blue - diversion route from north of closure; Red - road closure; Pink - direction of traffic to be reversed. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

In a letter to town councillors, Jim Brewin, chairman of the BID, wrote on behalf of local businesses to request the closures are postponed until after Christmas, which he said is 'the busiest time of the year for trade'.

The work - scheduled for November 16, 17 and 30 - would see investigations carried out on the condition of the bridge underneath High Street.

In the letter, Mr Brewin said: "Retailers are already feeling the effects of very difficult trading conditions on our UK high streets. Just as we are heading into our peak trading time, Essex County Council is handing key Christmas trade to our neighbouring towns.

"By choosing the timing of these works, access to the town will be restricted on two key trading weekends in the run-up to Christmas. As you can appreciate, this is a very unpopular course of action for businesses in Saffron Walden.

"Given the Slade [bridge under High Street] works are now not planned until the summer of 2021, can these investigatory works take place after Christmas, please?"

Mr Brewin added that BID had already contacted two ECC members to request the works be moved to after Christma: Cllr Kevin Bentley, deputy leader and cabinet member for infrastructure, and Cllr John Moran, member for Saffron Walden.

He said: "We are submitting a letter from town businesses to Essex County Council and we are compiling a list that endorses our communication".

A spokesman for the Essex County Council said: "Weekend closures are anticipated between King Street and George Street. Appropriate diversions will be in place for vehicles. Pedestrian access will be maintained.

"The findings from these investigations will support engineers planning the future replacement of the current bridge deck, which is in a weakened condition.

"Main works are provisionally being planned for the summer of 2021."

The closures aim to help investigating Slade Bridge's structure, as it runs beneath High Street. The structure dates back to the 1700s but was partially replaced in 1964.

All the details regarding the closure can be found at www.essex.gov.uk/highwayschemes. Updates will also be provided on Twitter: @essexhighway.

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