Dorchester residents are to be consulted in a postal questionnaire on the town’s controversial new proposed one-way system following a massive protest by local families.
The deadline for comments on the scheme – originally set at November 18 – has also been extended to December 20.
More than 200 residents crammed into the Corn Exchange on November 11 to raise their objections to Dorchester’s proposed new one-way system.
Critics say the new traffic-flow system is being foisted upon them, and that there has been little consultation on the issue.
The aim of the new one-way system is to reduce pollution levels in High West Street caused by heavy traffic flow. It would also allow High West Street to be pedestrianised – something that traders have been pushing for.
But angry residents say the proposed system – a cut-down, cheaper version of a plan first mooted a decade ago – will just move the pollution to other hotspots in the town.
Families are particularly concerned that the system will funnel traffic through residential areas such as Great Western Road, Damers Road and Cornwall Road.
Although there was an exhibition of the proposed scheme in the library for a few days, and a stand in South Street one market day, town residents claimed at the public meeting on November 11 that there should have been a full-scale consultation process to see whether the people of the town actually wanted such a scheme.
Liberal Democrat town, district and county councillor Andy Canning explained that Dorset County Council, which is responsible for the scheme, had been obliged to act on pollution levels as a result of government legislation.
But he received a hostile reception from residents, who demanded more research and more consultation. There were also fears that if a one-year trial scheme were allowed to go ahead, as proposed, it would become a fait accompli.
Meeting organiser Martin Graham, who lives in Cornwall Road, told the assembled residents: “Our concerns as a group is that this plan doesn’t achieve the objects set out in the plan – it doesn’t reduce traffic through the town it just redistributes it; it doesn’t reduce pollution, in fact we think it increases it by increasing journey times through Dorchester.
“We don’t think it’s helping the town economically because it’s putting a dividing line between Brewery Square and South Street. People for the mostpart are very pro-Brewery Square and think it’s a fantastic development for Dorchester but we can’t quite see the point if you then put a ring road that divides the historic part of town from the new development.”
Mr Graham also criticised the lack of “due process”, saying the first he had heard about the proposals was a leaflet through his door.
One of the speakers, John Fiori from The Horse with the Red Umbrella, and acting chairman of Dorchester Business Improvement District (BID), suggested a compromise to the meeting of a partial pedestrianisation of High West Street during the daytime only, from 9.30am to 3pm, avoiding the rush-hour.
Dorset County Council’s chief engineer Tim Norman told the Voice that the consultation deadline had now been extended to December 20 as a result of residents’ concerns.
There will also be an exhibition in the Dorset County Council foyer from 9-20 December, and 8,000 residents in the centre of town will be receiving a leaflet inviting them to submit their opinion, either online or by returning the questionnaire.
Mr Norman said there would be a specific question asking if people wanted the scheme, and that his team would also consider alternative suggestions.
“Hopefully this demonstrates that we are listening,” he said.
Members of the public are also being invited to make their feelings known at a meeting of Dorchester Town Council’s planning and environment committee meeting on Monday 2 December at 6.30pm.
The meeting will be held in the Corn Exchange to allow as many people as possible to attend. People will be able to speak for up to three minutes each, but owing to time constraints, anyone wishing to speak should contact email@example.com or telephone 01305 266861 in advance, identifying the general issue you wish to cover.
The residents’ group has set up a Facebook page – search for DTEP Response. You can also join its mailing list at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Full details of the whole scheme, along with an online questionnaire, can also be found on the Dorchester Transport pages at http://www.dorsetforyou.com/dorchester-transport-plan.