Ring road clear for Christmas

HUNTINGDON town centre is very much open for Christmas shopping, the district council promised yesterday (Tuesday). Off-peak lane closures on the town s ring road are now a thing of the past, with yesterday (Tuesday) the last time they were needed as a pr

HUNTINGDON town centre is very much open for Christmas shopping, the district council promised yesterday (Tuesday).

Off-peak lane closures on the town's ring road are now a thing of the past, with yesterday (Tuesday) the last time they were needed as a precaution during the demolition of the council's Pathfinder House headquarters.

The news will come as a relief to business leaders, who feared a repetition of last spring's traffic chaos would hit trade hard at a time of year when many stores generate 60 per cent of their annual income.

Signs on the approaches to the ring road suggested one lane would be closed for 10 days from last Wednesday. In fact, lane closures were planned only off-peak on weekdays and only at some time during that 10-day period. In fact, last Friday, Monday and yesterday were the only days on which the contractors, Alfred McAlpine, needed to close the right-hand lane in case debris fell into the road.

The demolition of the west wing of Pathfinder House is part of a four-year £23million project to provide the district council with a replacement for its depot and town centre headquarters.

"With the critical stages of the demolition almost complete, the town is looking forward to a clear run into the last 12 shopping days before Christmas," said a spokesman for HDC.

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"A bumper turnout is expected on the two remaining Saturdays, and the district council will open the site of its old depot as an overflow car park. The old depot at Bridge Place, Godmanchester, is a five-minute walk across the old river bridge to the High Street shops.

"The depot site will be lit early morning and late afternoon, and Huntingdon and District Sea Cadets will be on hand to help shoppers make the most of the available space.

Responding to concerns raised by traders, HDC deputy leader, Councillor Mike Simpson, whose portfolio includes responsibility for the new offices, said: "I can understand the traders' concerns, and it is unfortunate that we have had to delay ring road traffic at all.

"The lane closure was essential for public safety and, because of the overall length of the project, we couldn't be certain when it would have to happen.

"When we knew that it would be in the run-up to Christmas we did everything we could to reduce the time it took to complete."

John Nunn, owner of the Card Gallery in the High Street and vice-chairman of the Huntingdon Town Centre Partnership, told The Hunts Post yesterday: "From a trader's perspective the timing was poor, but the partnership looks forward to continuing the close working relationship we have developed with the council over the last few days through the rest of their redevelopment.

"This has not been a good year for retailers in Huntingdon, but we are all ready for Christmas and have got the stock in. We believe people are ready to spend a bit more this year. The general feeling is that more people are coming into the town to shop, and with new developments we are beginning to look like a proper town centre. In the next couple of years it's going to be a fabulous town to shop in," he added.

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