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Residents weigh in on changes to Harleston town centre

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Residents and business owners across Harleston have weighed in on proposed traffic measures in the town, as a petition to stop them closes in on 500 signatures.

The £750,000 scheme, which will be funded by South Norfolk Council, Norfolk County Council and the town council, is aimed at reducing traffic and making the town safer for pedestrians.

Many have warned that the measures could have a devastating impact on footfall, however, after a three-week consultation came to a close on Tuesday.

David Bramhall, pictured on The Throughfare. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
David Bramhall, pictured on The Throughfare. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

The measures seek to make permanent a number of traffic measures put in place during the pandemic, which deny motorists direct access to Bullock Fair car park from the town centre, forcing drivers to take a long detour along Wilderness Lane instead.

David Bramhall, a novelist from Harleston who set up the petition, said: “I think a lot of people suspected this was the first step of a plan to remodel the centre of Harleston and this has proven to be true – now that everything is going back to normal, they are going to make these measures permanent.

“It’s a very unpopular move round here. I haven’t met anybody that’s in favour of them.”

One of the proposed measures is to increase on-street parking in the town, including in Broad Street and The Thoroughfare.

“That seems a very retrograde step,” said Mr Bramhall.

“I’ve never seen any congestion on the roads. It’s been working perfectly well for years and we don’t see why it should be altered.”

The diverted route along Wilderness Lane also takes drivers past Archbishop Sancroft High School, which many have warned poses an unnecessary danger to schoolchildren.

“It’s very poorly signposted – this has been a very unpopular move and a lot of us think it’s dangerous,” said Mr Bramhall, of Gawdy Close.

Robin Twigge, who runs the Swan Hotel in The Thoroughfare, praised the scheme.

“I’ve always been in support of it,” he said. “When we had the first lockdown, I thought it was lovely.

“I like the idea of it being a market square in the old fashioned sense.”

In announcing the measures, South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said the scheme would see Harleston “move with the times”.

He said: “South Norfolk has received its share of extra business rates paid by expanding businesses across the whole of Norfolk.

“In the past, we have invested in Diss’s market triangle and in Wymondham and Long Stratton with town centre improvements – now it’s Harleston’s turn.

“We are proposing to invest all that extra business rates income, together with some of the extra council tax paid by the occupiers of new homes – the best part of £750,000 – in helping Harleston move with the times and be best placed to respond to the changes the pandemic has accelerated.”

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