Further criticism for plan to reopen part of Abington Street to traffic

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A controversial £3 million scheme to reopen part of Abington Street to traffic has come under further scrutiny at a meeting to rubberstamp the proposals.

The plans outlined by Northampton Borough Council will see the section between St Giles Terrace and Wellington Street opened to vehicles, in a bid to increase footfall.

But opposition councillors claim there is widespread opposition among shopkeepers in the affected part of Abington Street.

A meeting of Northamptonshire County Council’s ruling cabinet yesterday gave approval to a traffic regulation order, which now allows the borough council to progress the scheme.

Councillors were told to address the traffic order and not to speak about the merits of the scheme, a request which was largely ignored.

Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib, Kingsthorpe South), said: “The consultation was done in December, when people have their busiest times, not just in shops but in their private lives.

“There were 12 responses, nine of which showed objections. We went to speak to 14 traders on Saturday, and all 14 said they were against the proposals.”

Councillor Winston Strachan (Lab, Castle) said: “The business community is struggling, and the process leading up to any change must be right.”

John Cutler, from cycling charity CTC, said: “My objection relates to the order restricting cyclists to one-way travel. There are good reasons to restrict motor vehicles, but restrictions on cyclists are not justified.

“There are a number of major projects which will have a major effect on cycling in the town centre. Around 10,000 university students will be coming to live and work here, and it is highly likely they will use a bike.

“There does not seem to be a genuine political will to support cyclists.”

Speaking in support of the scheme, borough council leader, Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm), said: “Since it was pedestrianised, this area of Abington Street has seen a reduction in footfall and passing trade.

“The order will help improve access and parking. We believe this will give people a reason to go to that part of Abington Street again.

“The short-term cost will be outweighed by the long-term benefit.”

Work on the scheme is due to start in April,