Rugby MP speaks to PM after residents, councillors and businesses express anger over one-way system through town centre
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey told the Prime Minister the changes to Rugby town centre are 'unwelcome'
Huge changes to the road system in Rugby town centre have sparked fierce debate among councillors, residents and business owners - and Rugby MP Mark Pawsey has spoken with the Prime Minister about the matter.
The temporary changes, eligible for up to 18 months and brought about by Warwickshire County Council, have seen the creation of a huge one-way system around the town centre, with on-street parking suspended on several roads.
The county council argues that the changes will help to revitalise the town centre after a long struggle with the impact of the lockdown – but many Rugby Borough councillors think differently.
Councillors from Rugby’s Lib Dem and Labour groups said the changes were pushed through with no public consultation.
Labour group leader Cllr 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.
“Last year, both the Borough and County Council announced a climate emergency, and yet these plans could actually see an increase in traffic, air pollution and have an adverse affect on the health of our residents.
“For many people, the first they will know about the changes is when they come into place.”
Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, Lib Dem group leader, 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 throughout this process and the decision made by the Conservative portfolio holder and deputy leader at Warwick which failed to take account of the suggestions made by both Labour and liberal democrat groups such as consulting local, residents and groups so they could have their say.”
In Parliament on June 23 Rugby MP Mark Pawsey described the traffic measures as 'unwelcome'.
Speaking to the Prime Minister following the announcement that two two-metre social distancing rule would change to one metre on July 4, Mr Pawsey said: "I assure the Prime Minister that there will be a warm welcome for his measures today in Rugby, not only from the pubs and restaurants but in particular from the town centre traders.
"To accommodate two-metre social distancing, there are works under way to provide an unwelcome one-way system and the removal of on-street parking.
"The welcome move to one metre on 4 July means that those measures will no longer be necessary and that it will be easier for customers to get into our town centre and spend money with our fantastic local retailers.
Working jointly Labour and Lib Dem councillors have promoted a petition (accessible at bit.ly/3hWLgiM) calling for an urgent review into the measures.
At the time of writing this report, the petition has almost 1,000 signatures.
Cllr Kieren Brown (Newbold and Brownsover, Labour), said: “The County Council urgently need to clarify whether they agree with Mark Pawsey that the announcement on social distancing makes the town’s one-way system no longer necessary.”
Lib Dem councillor Jerry Roodhouse said: "The overwhelming feedback I have had from residents and businesses is that it is a prohibitive system which will make things harder for them.”
Labour councillor and group leader Maggie O'Rourke said: "I felt both sick and cross when I saw what the Tory County Councillor Jeff Clarke had agreed to and without any local consultation, it feels like an act of vandalism on our beautiful town centre."
In a statement released on June 18, Rugby Conservatives said: "The Liberal Democrats in Rugby are actually showing that they are not concerned about public health, they are not interested in helping town centre businesses thrive and in this time of climate change, are complaining about reducing the number of cars in the town centre.
"Every county and borough councillor for the Rugby area was sent the details and the plans for the temporary one way system in the town centre and had a chance to respond.
"There was a meeting about all this last week between officers at RBC, WCC, the portfolio holder for Growth and Investment and the two opposition party leaders in Rugby.
"Rugby has consistently had the lowest number of confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 across the county, our residents have done really well and we want to start to get back to normal, be with our families and socialise.
"The Conservative councillors do not want to jeopardise any of that by forcing residents to ignore social distancing in the town centre.
"We want our retailers and businesses to trade, we want our residents to feel they can walk around the town centre, so we need to act and we need to be able to adapt.
"This scheme provides space for pedestrians to feel safe. The one-way system is also safer for pedestrians as traffic is only coming from one direction.
"The measures are temporary procedures and initially they will be reviewed daily by WCC Highways.
"They do not anticipate current traffic levels rising dramatically within 12 months. The email address is there for everyone to feedback on how it is working and once the measures are in place and people experience them, we encourage people to email and feedback. Email: [email protected]"
Visit bit.ly/2YuwesG for the full details of the changes.