Traders in Northampton’s main shopping street have welcomed the return of traffic for the first time in more than 20 years – while others have described the £3 million project as a “waste of money”.
Work has been ongoing since April to depedestrianise part of Abington Street and install 30 new parking spaces, where drivers can stay for two hours for free. There are also a number of new dropping off points and 17 disabled parking bays.
The first vehicles were able to travel down the new road, which runs in a one-way direction from St Giles Terrace through to Wellington Street, on Monday.
A number of council workers in high visibility jackets were employed during the first few days of the new road to help direct drivers and pedestrians.
A council spokesman said a number of traffic cones and temporary metal barriers would remain on the edge of the road before being gradually removed and replaced with planters and barriers.
The opening of Abington Street to traffic was met with significant opposition earlier this year. A petition to keep Abington Street free from cars received more than 1,200 names.
A number of traders in the shopping street also blamed the construction work for a drop in trade.
However, after seeing the depedestrianised street in action, a group of three traders who run businesses next to the new street said they believed it would have a positive effect.
Roy Harland, owner of Watts furnishers, said: “I think it will take time for people to get used to it. I think it would help if they had a sign on St Giles Street telling drivers they could now use the road.
“But overall it is something that I am very much in favour of and have been waiting 25 years for.
“At the moment it looks a bit messy but it will look a lot better when they put all the planters in.”
Mr Harland said he thought it would be a benefit to his business that people would be able to get dropped off and picked up.
Linda Munday, who runs the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Abington Street, said she had already noticed more people were able to drop off donations.
She said: “We all think it will be a positive move and get more people coming into Northampton town centre. The two hours free parking is amazing.”
John Sheinman, who runs Sheinman opticians, said he also thought the new road was an “improvement”.
He said: “It is nice to see the rejuvenated road surface. The extra parking spaces will be useful for some of our customers.
“I think it adds some strength to this end of Abington Street.”
However, reaction from a number of pedestrians, who were asked what they thought of the new road on Wednesday, was less positive.
Greta Patching, aged 75, of Spring Park, Northampton said: “I don’t know what the point of it is. I don’t think it looks that different.
“I can’t really understand why they changed it.”
Ann Colyer, of Mears Ashby, said: “I don’t think it was a good idea and it is a waste of money. I don’t think it will make much difference. The money could have been spent more wisely.”
Michael Wallace, of The Arbours, Northampton, said: “The money could have been used for something different. There are so many organisations that could have been supported.”
Critics of the scheme to open up part of Abington Street to traffic have claimed the whole cost of the project will be nearer £6 million due to the cost of interest of the money borrowed to fund it.