CHANGES to Rugby town centre road layouts have been revealed in detail by Warwickshire County Council (WCC), amid criticism from opposition Borough councillors that the scheme was not put out to public consultation.
WCC will introduce temporary measures to turn town centre roads into a one-way system next week – but has been slammed by Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) Labour and Liberal Democrat groups for not letting local residents and groups have their say on the scheme.
Clifton Road, Church Street and North Street will be closed to westbound traffic from the Murray Road roundabout to the junction of North Street, Evreux Way and Park Road.
Hillmorton Road will be closed to eastbound traffic from Barby Road to the Whitehall Road roundabout.
Lawrence Sheriff Street will remain open in both directions between the gyratory and Barby Road to support access to St Cross Hospital.
Some on-street parking will be suspended on parts of Regent Street, Albert Street, Bank Street and Henry Street, with parking for blue badge holders at the southern end of Albert Street.
The changes, drawn up by WCC in consultation with Rugby Borough Council, Rugby First and other partners, are being made to assist the reopening of Rugby and the recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing extra space for pedestrians to safely circulate and queue outside shops.
Traffic management equipment such as cones and barriers will be used to segregate people from traffic. The councils plan to work with local art groups to improve the appearance of barriers, to ensure the distinctive look and feel of the town can be retained.
RBC’s Labour and LibDem groups issued a joint statement expressing anger that residents and other town centre stakeholders had not been consulted in advance.
Labour group leader Coun Maggie O’ Rourke said: “It is unacceptable for County Councillors to make decisions which will affect people in our town centre without consulting them first.
“For many people, the first they will know about the changes is when they come into place.
“Last year, both the Borough and County Council announced a climate emergency, and yet these plans could actually see an increase in traffic and air pollution, and have an adverse affect on the health of our residents.”
Lib Dem group leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse said: “We agree that some parts of the town centre could be improved to cater for and encourage pedestrians and cyclists, but the improvements have to be sensible, achievable and comprehensive.
“We are extremely concerned that the decision made by the Conservative Portfolio Holder and Deputy Leader at Warwickshire failed to take account of the suggestions made by both Labour and Liberal Democrat groups such as consulting local residents and groups.
“This is a big decision which will impact on the whole community and it was pushed through with no genuine discussion. The decision was made before the talking started.”
But Coun Jeff Clarke, transport and planning spokesman for the Conservative-controlled WCC, said they had to act swiftly, which prevented widespread community engagement.
He said: “We have been working with our key partners to bring forward these plans to temporarily change road layouts as part of our response to the public health crises created by COVID-19 and to reinvigorate our town centres and support the economic recovery.
“Overall there is a consensus among partners that this is the right thing to do in Rugby.
“We will be monitoring the scheme carefully and will adapt it if necessary, to ensure it remains suitable and appropriate to local needs and conditions.
“The plans will help businesses operate, give the public confidence that they can safely return to use and enjoy the town centre, and give our businesses and communities a much-needed boost.”
RBC’s Conservative leader Coun Seb Lowe added: “We are pleased to be able to reopen the town centre and have worked hard at implementing measures to support businesses and keep our residents safe.
“The council will continue to work with partners to monitor our open spaces and ensure that we can support the town centre by making sure that it is a safe and welcoming place to be. We need to act and adapt to make sure that these changes work well.
“We would encourage all residents to consider walking or cycling into town if they can. Every bike rack in the town is mapped on the council’s App, and there will now be plenty of pavement space too.”
Visit www.rugby.gov.uk/app to download RBCs free mobile phone app.
WCC plans to introduce the scheme next week (week beginning Monday June 22) following the reopening of non-essential shops at the beginning of this week. Information about the scheme will be available at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/covid19roadlayouts soon.