OVER £36,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on the controversial one-way system in Rugby town centre – which was scrapped less than a week after it was introduced.
On Sunday (June 28) Warwickshire County Council (WCC) reversed the temporary scheme – introduced on Monday June 22 to help shoppers maintain social distancing – ‘as it became increasingly clear that a consensus could not be reached with local businesses, partners and stakeholders’.
A WCC spokesperson said the scheme had cost £36,500 to implement and remove.
They added: “WCC acted at pace in Rugby to put in place measures to protect public health at a time of huge uncertainty within the context of the pandemic.
“Schemes across Warwickshire have been introduced and adapted based on feedback and evidence on how the various schemes would work in practice.
“WCC remain committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to support business to reopen safely.”
Before announcing on Friday (June 26) that the system would be scrapped, the Conservative-controlled county council had come under increasing pressure from residents, businesses and councillors to remove the system.
Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) Conservative leader Coun Seb Lowe called for an ‘urgent’ review into the scheme after town centre businesses said it was harming trade.
And RBC’s Labour and Liberal Democrat groups slammed WCC for not consulting local residents and businesses in advance.
Lib Dem group leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse said the overwhelming feedback he had from residents and businesses was that the scheme was “a prohibitive system which will make things harder for them”, while Labour group leader Coun Maggie O’Rourke described it as “an act of vandalism on our beautiful town centre”.
A petition against the scheme attracted over 1,000 signatures within three days.
WCC transport and planning spokesman Coun Jeff Clarke said: “It is disappointing that we have not come to a consensus on what was needed in Rugby.
“We were firmly of the belief that, while the scheme’s primary intention was to safeguard the public and enable safe social distancing, businesses would also benefit from having more space on the roads.
“This would allow their customers to circulate safely around the town, queue where necessary and to be able to accommodate more customers when bars, cafés and restaurants are able to reopen after July 4, with the increase in footfall that that will bring.
“We always said that we had to act quickly, in line with the government’s expectation, and get something ready which could then be adapted.
“As with other schemes around the county, we have listened to partners, the business community and other stakeholders with the view that schemes could be adapted depending on what issues were identified.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to agree a compromise in Rugby. We were not willing to continue with the scheme without their full backing or that of the Borough Council.”
Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/covid19roadlayouts for more information about further roadspace reallocation schemes in Warwickshire.