Mill Road bridge closure ‘illegal’, claim traders
Traders claim that the order to close Mill Road bridge to to all traffic except cycles and buses was “illegal” – and they have demanded that Cambridgeshire County Council reopens it immediately.
The bridge was closed for a trial from June using an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), which the county council said was to help pedestrians stay two metres apart to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Those travelling by bus, bike or on foot can still use the bridge under the terms of the ETRO, which created a bus gate and was brought in swiftly by the local authority among a raft of ‘active travel schemes’ designed to aid social distancing and promote greener travel.
But the move has sparked months of debate with some residents, cyclists and the Camcycle group welcoming the closure while members of the Mill Road Traders’ Association vociferously opposed it, calling it “devastating” for their businesses.
Now the Mill Road Traders’ Association say they believe the closure was handled in an “illegal manner”. They cite section 9(1) of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984, which states that an experimental order may only be made for a valid experimental purpose.
A spokesperson for the traders said that while the council published its reasons for creating the bus gate using an ETRO there was “nothing in the statement of reasons or the order itself (that) includes any experimental purpose”.
The spokesperson added: “No data on social distancing was collected before the bridge closure, and no data on social distancing has been collected since the closure.”
This, they argue, appears to make comparisons impossible if the council had intended to carry out an experiment to see if the bridge closure helped with social distancing.
The spokesperson continued: “The clock is ticking to open the Mill Road bridge. The damage to traders along the street continues when (county council) highways could remove the restrictions in as little as two days, maximum.”
They said the closure had caused “severe inconvenience to elderly, disabled and residents... with extended journey times and extra costs of transport”.
The traders claim the council “has no choice but to reopen the bridge”.
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “We are aware of the Mill Road Traders’ statement regarding the closure of Mill Road bridge to all traffic except buses, cyclists and pedestrians.
“We recognise that there is support for the closure as well those who are against it and we continue to listen to feedback from all of the local communities and organisations, which includes local councillors.
“The scheme is designed to promote active travel and also to keep people safe during the current coronavirus emergency by allowing people to socially distance.”
Councillors will discuss a consultation feedback next year and determine whether to make the closure permanent.
Some argue that the biggest benefit is cleaner air.
Sam Dyer, of Cambridge Sustainable Food, has lived in Romsey for about 35 years.
“Over those years I have brought up a child on Mill Road and I’ve spent a lot of time concerned about my child in a pushchair being at fume-level, exhaust-level. I’ve seen traffic increase, I’ve seen huge amounts of changes.
“I’ve also run a business on Mill Road for 10 years, a while back admittedly. But I am super excited to see the possibility of Mill Road changing and becoming part of the solution rather than a clogged up, congested, air-polluted street.
“One particular morning I walked out and the air was crystal clear. And I walked out onto Mill Road and the road was crystal clear and I could hear the birds singing. And to me, that was fantastic.
“I’m exceptionally concerned about climate change – we have to change so why not be be one of the leading lights in the country?”
The consultation on Mill Road bridge continues until 11.59pm on December 24.
Complete it at consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/mill-road-consultation.
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