WHAT DO YOU THINK? Call for public consultation over Southwold bus ban

Bus in Southwold High Street.; Photo: Andy Darnell Bus in Southwold High Street.; Photo: Andy Darnell

Friday, July 27, 2012
6:05 PM

A FULL public consultation is needed to gauge people’s opinions on the controversial “bus ban” in Southwold town centre, a transport users’ pressure group said this week.

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East Suffolk Travellers' Association chairman Trevor Garrod, 
Copy : Tom Smithard
For : EDP/BBJ/LJ
Copyright Archant NorfolkEast Suffolk Travellers' Association chairman Trevor Garrod, Copy : Tom Smithard For : EDP/BBJ/LJ Copyright Archant Norfolk

The East Suffolk Travellers’ Association (ESTA) is calling for a detailed survey to assess the experimental scheme which was drawn up to combat traffic congestion in the High Street.

It comes a year after the 18-month trial was introduced, and a bus stop was relocated from outside Chapman’s News to the King’s Head pub – a move that prompted criticism from some passengers.

Yesterday, the Southwold Chamber of Trade backed ESTA’s call for a detailed study and said some businesses had reported a loss of trade because of the measures, which are likely to run until January.

But the Southwold and Reydon Society voiced support for the ban, saying it had helped tackle traffic problems.

Bus in Southwold High Street.
Photo: Andy DarnellBus in Southwold High Street. Photo: Andy Darnell

ESTA’s chairman Trevor Garrod, said the group had become concerned about whether a comprehensive study was in place to assess the effects of the trial. He said: “When it was announced that there would be an ‘experimental’ ban for ‘up to 18 months’, we were concerned about the vagueness of the measure.

“We asked who would evaluate the success or otherwise of the experiment? By what criteria will they do it? Will they, for example, measure the amount of cars coming in and out of Southwold? Or the amount of bus passengers? Or the effect on local businesses? Do they already have statistics for these measurements before July 2011, for comparison purposes?

“We have repeated these questions since. We have been met each time by a deafening silence. We asked if we could hand out questionnaires on the buses (as we did for a survey on the train in 2009) but received no reply. Therefore, we sent it to our members and encouraged them to distribute it to other public transport users.

“As a result, in October/November 2011 we received 74 responses from bus users – a third of whom lived outside Southwold and Reydon. There was overwhelming support (87pc) for a return of the bus stop to the Market Place. Some respondents said they had stopped coming to Southwold by bus since the bus stop was moved from the Market Place to the King’s Head and there were also comments that the bus shelter erected at the Kings Head was vastly inferior to the old one at the Market Place.

“Neither Suffolk County Council nor Southwold Town Council has even acknowledged ESTA’s report. We should, however, be delighted if the county council were to spend a little of our council taxes in organising a survey of its own to ascertain what the bus passengers want. Such a survey is essential before any permanent decision is made.

“The council should also look again at alternatives, such as re-routing buses, park-and-ride schemes and even, in the longer term, discussing with the operator(s) whether smaller vehicles might be used for some services.”

The experimental scheme – paid for with £10,000 of the town council’s money and match-funded by the county council – is designed to curb the number of large vehicles travelling along High Street between Victoria Street and the Market Place.

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

Guy Mitchell, chairman of the chamber of trade, said: “The committee’s views are that we would welcome consultation from Suffolk County Council, which was promised when the scheme started. Obviously emotions run very high on this issue and the only way to properly assess the trial is through some kind of quantitative survey. “Traders in the Market Place side of the town have said the trial has had a detrimental impact on business.”

However, John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said the ban has helped address the congestion blighting Southwold. Nevertheless, he believes more can be done to make the one-way system clearer and the bus shelter near the Kings Head more robust. He said: “The view from the society is that it is working well and the High Street is less congested. One of our concerns is that by trying to relieve traffic in Southwold, we are creating a problem for people in Reydon. “People coming into Southwold to do their shopping get dropped off at the King’s Head and have to walk the length of the High Street loaded with bags to get back to the bus stop.

“The one-way system at King’s Head also needs looking at because motorists are still ignoring it, which is an accident waiting to happen.

“But most of the people think its working well and pedestrians feel less intimidated by traffic – because the pavements are very narrow. On balance it is a much better system.

“However, if they are going to stick with the one-way system they need a better bus stop. There is very inadequate shelter and in the winter months there should be given something a little more robust to protect the old people.”

The issue is due to be discussed at meeting of Southwold Town Council at 7.30pm on Tuesday evening.

Southwold mayor Michael Ladd said: “We have had a variety of views and the council want to take on board all these comments.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “The trial is still on going and can in theory be in place until January 2013. Until it’s conclusion, we are not in a position to give a detailed analysis of the results. We are working with the town council and some residents surveys are being planned.”

7 comments

  • I use the bus from Halesworth or Beccles to Southwold regularly . I find that it`s a lot easier for the buses to get in and out of town . If you want to get to the pier , the 601 serves it . I personally prefer the new bus stop , but I`m able-bodied , if I had difficulty walking , I might take a different attitude .

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    dragonfly

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

  • As an occasional visitor to Southwold it would be a step forward if we could travel from Ipswich by public transport. Instead we all arrive in cars which surely clogs the streets far more than buses. For those that have never been on a bus, they take considerably more passengers than cars and usually involve a little exercise walking to and from the bus stop. All I hear as an outsider are stories of Southwold residents (Are they genuine locals????) objecting to just about anything.

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    Roger

    Monday, July 30, 2012

  • ESTA makes a very valid point that there is no baseline survey to gauge the impact of the bus ban from. Without public transport serving its Market Place or going the length of the High Street, many residents of Southwold and Reydon in Suffolk have become isolated from essential services and feel trapped in their homes while the shopkeepers have reported a decrease in trade since the buses were banned from the town. It is well understood that such isolation has an enormous impact on health and if left unchecked, increased cost for the public purse will result. One solution that could meet the conflicting demands that necessitated this £10,000 'experiment' is for Southwold to have its own community bus, running a scheduled local service in a loop around the town and outlying villages. Connecting with the inter-town buses, it could serve the tourism areas of the pier and the harbour and connect the residential areas and Reydon to the High Street with a small disabled-accessible ‘Hoppa’ bus able to navigate the narrow streets and around every thoughtlessly parked 4x4. http:handybus.blogspot.co.uk201201going-nowhere.html

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    Nat Bocking

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • I like to visit Southwold for lunch and to visit the shops, however I suffer from limited mobility and the walk from the bus stop at the Kings Head into the market area is a bit of a struggle on a bd day. I therefore tend not to visit the town as much as I would like and instead spend my money in places that I am able to access with less effort. I feel I am not alone in this and think that the attitude of the Southwold and Reydon Society is detrimental to the traders in Southwold and that they are actually doing more harm than good with their approach to traffic in the area.

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    Ken Baker

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Everything indicates to the fact that ordinary "common" folk and the buses they use are not welcome in "posh" Southwold. If you do go there don't mention buses, coaches, Costa Coffee, little steam trains, disabled people and of course all those dreadful oil tankers. What's next for the list?

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    Port Watcher

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

  • Typical ageist comment about the bus shelter. It is not just OAPs who use the bus. I go to work on it every day - and believe it or not younger people also get wet and feel the cold. The seat outside the Kings Heads is frequently covered in vomit and unfit to sit on - or it is wet because of the weather. The shelter is a joke and is not even by the bus stop. Both supermarkets are at the top end of the town - why should anyone young or old have to hike the length of the High Street with bags. Stop parking in the High St and you solve the traffic problem !

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    bathgirl

    Monday, July 30, 2012

  • i do not live in southwold but live near bye stop cars from parking in the high street sounds a good one public transport must come first banning buses is very silly what next banning mobility scooters em

    Report this comment

    john taylor

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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