Northampton shop owner slams council's 'nightmare' 24-hour bus lane but council refuses to budge

"It's a total nightmare. We're losing out on customers, we're losing out on deliveries, no-one wants to deliver to us. It's a big hurdle"

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 10:29 am

A Northampton shop keeper has slammed a controversial 24-hour bus lane saying it is making his life a 'nightmare' due to the problems it has caused for his business.

The bus lane - which was introduced in August by the then county council's Jason Smithers - starts from the Audi Dealership in Weedon Road and runs all the way down the A45 and stops at the railway station.

There is also a controversial enforcement camera monitoring the bus lane just outside the BP Garage in West Bridge, which, after being described as a 'cash cow' by some, is up for review to change its location.

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Ozan Atila owns Maxxi Save

In the mean time however, while residents, business owners and motorists wait for West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) to come to a decision about the current camera's location, people are still feeling the effects of the new lane and enforcement protocols.

The scheme was brought into effect by Higham Ferrers councillor Jason Smithers in a bid to meet the government's demand for Covid travel plans, which essentially wants local authorities to create greener ways to travel. This bus lane is an attempt at getting more people on buses and bicycles, and reducing cars on the roads.

Ozan Atila, who owns Maxxi Save in St James Road, opposite Franklin's Gardens, has said the bus lane has damaged his business as delivery drivers have nowhere to park and drop off supplies. They used to use the bus lane to make the drop-offs.

The 28-year-old shop keeper said: "It's a total nightmare. We're losing out on customers, we're losing out on deliveries, no-one wants to deliver to us. It's a big hurdle that we don't know how we're going to step over.

"We need, for a limited amount of time, to be allowed to use the bus stop. If we can't stop off at that bus stop to drop off our goods, it makes it impossible any other way. We end up dropping our stock off in the middle of the road.

"Drivers, they don't want to deliver to us, they don't want to come, customers are complaining that they're not getting their stock. So it's just a big downfall for us in every way.

"It's been difficult to stock up everything while no-one wants to bring us stock. We're having to drive down to London ourselves to get it, which is a total nightmare. We're worried they won't deliver to us, so we're having to drive down in our own van to collect the goods ourselves.

"They can't park right outside the shop and everything time they try to park on the road behind the shop it's difficult because they come in large lorries or trucks and everyone complains saying 'you've got to move'. Then every two seconds they're moving their truck. It's not easy. It just makes it much easier when they can stop off, drop the goods and leave."

Ozan said a normal drop-off lasted 30 minutes before the 24-hour bus lane came into effect, but now, if the delivery driver comes and uses the back roads in St James, it can take around two hours.

Another local resident took aim at the enforcement camera after recently receiving a £30 fine for driving in the bus lane while trying to undertake a car turning into the BP Garage.

He said: "They [WNC] have got to take the camera down. It's causing congestion and pollution. It's horrendous now around here [St James] in the morning.

"I was fined after taking my dogs down to Delapre at 6am. A van was turning into West Bridge, I pulled out and then pulled back in, and because I breached the lane I got fined. It's positioned so it makes money. I've been doing that route for 20 years every morning, seven days a week. To me it's a money spinner."

The man added that he hopes the newly formed WNC takes the camera down as 'a top priority'.

Another local resident in the area, Douglas Hamilton, said: "I don't see the point in it [bus lane], what do they want it for? Why are they giving buses priority? People aren't going to use the bus.

"It's not very good, I don't think. If the lights turn red, the cars have to stop, and that increases pollution, which is the opposite of what the council is trying to do. It's not very well thought out."

Mr Hamilton said he would like to see the new authority run its own bus service like 'they used to'.

A WNC spokesman responded to the concerns. Stuart Timmiss, from WNC, said: “The 24-hour bus lane restrictions were introduced to ensure that alternative forms of transport are given reasonable priority into Northampton town centre.

“We carried out extensive consultation around our plans for this change from 12 to 24-hour restrictions and it is important that we enforce those as part of our wider plan to ensure that public transport and cycling are viable alternatives to car use.

“While there are some concerns about the scheme, it has been in place for only a short time and we don’t currently have plans for any changes, though we will continue to monitor and amend our approach, where necessary, to alleviate traffic issues.”