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Protesters vow to block Mill Road bridge as work begins




A large group of campaigners will protest on Mill Road bridge this morning (Wednesday) against the county council’s plan to close the bridge to all traffic except buses and bicycles.

Traders on Mill Road say the closure could be devastating for their businesses, which have already suffered huge losses during the coronavirus lockdown. They are planning to chain themselves together - two metres apart - on the bridge from 11am.

And taxi drivers, who say they were not consulted about the closure and have not been considered in the plans, are joining the traders in the protest this morning (Wednesday), with a parade of cabs expected to drive up and down the road in convoy to express their support at 11.30am.

Hand off Mill Road Bridge - the protest sign appeared on the road this week (37185964)
Hand off Mill Road Bridge - the protest sign appeared on the road this week (37185964)

Cambridge’s MP Daniel Zeichner and former mayor Cllr Gerri Bird have both spoken out against the bridge closure plans.

And a Cambridge Independent poll, involving more than 1,500 people, found 57 per cent were opposed to the move, and only 43 per cent supported it.

Asked how it would affect their shopping habits, 50 per cent said they would visit Mill Road less often, 36 per cent said they would visit more often and 14 per cent said it would not affect their visits.

Mill Road Traders’ spokesperson Piero D’Angelico predicted 200 would turn out to this morning’s protests.

The hairdresser said: “We will block the bridge with our protest and we are not going to let this closure happen. If they don’t change their minds about closing the bridge there will be more protests.

“We feel betrayed by the council because we weren’t told about the closure before the decision was made. It will take a long time to rebuild the legacy of our relationship and the trust between us after this.

Mill Rd Traders Association members, pictured last year, are against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Shapour Meftah, Piero D'angelico, Pamela Wesson and Abdul Arain. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Mill Rd Traders Association members, pictured last year, are against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Shapour Meftah, Piero D'angelico, Pamela Wesson and Abdul Arain. Picture: Keith Heppell.

“The traders on Mill Road have been through a lot. The bridge was closed last year because of the railway works, then the gas works, then there was the fire at Gee’s electrical shop and then we had to close down because of Covid-19. We have taken a big financial hit.

“I have been three months without work. I have a family to feed, I can see my bank account going down and down. I have no income whatsoever and I’m supposed to be preparing to open my shop to try and start to earn some money.

We were told at one point by councillors that the road could become one way, but then they said that plan was off the table. They never said to us that the bridge was going to be closed to all traffic except buses and bikes. ”

The scheme, and a host of other measures relating to cycling and pedestrian routes, was passed by a highways committee last week, as the Cambridge Independent reported. Cycling campaigners have welcomed the general push to promote cycling and walking.

Workers have arrived at Mill Road (37185975)
Workers have arrived at Mill Road (37185975)

On Monday, the council’s road workers began marking out places in Mill Road where the pavement is set to be widened. However, some protesters used chalk paint to draw similar markings on the opposite side of the road so it would be difficult for contractors to know where to dig.

Local Labour county councillor Noel Kavanagh, who was involved in planning the Mill Road bridge closure scheme, claimed he had received many emails from residents in support of the scheme.

The sign painted on the tarmac of Mill Road bridge reads: "One road, one community" (37185985)
The sign painted on the tarmac of Mill Road bridge reads: "One road, one community" (37185985)

“Looking at my mailbox, the number of people in support of the closure is huge against those who are against it. The general public is expecting to be able to go about in a less polluted atmosphere. "People have enjoyed not breathing in poisoned air and they don't want to go back to the awful environment that full traffic causes.

“I'm urging the traders to embrace the thought that their businesses could benefit from people walking comfortably to their shops. Where areas have been pedestrianised the footfall increases.

“Why don’t we just let’s see what happens? The order has monitoring built into it. The traders have not convinced me the success of their businesses was based on people turning up in vehicles.”

And he said there had been little time for consultation before the decision: "We consulted as far as possible. These are not the usual circumstances where the normal rules of consultation are in place because this is an emergency measure.”


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