Change proposed to relieve car park gridlock

The Lidl store in Huntingdon.

The Lidl store in Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

Supermarket firm Lidl is set to get the go-ahead for alterations to the exit from its store in Huntingdon – despite fears that the scheme will not ease congestion at the junction on to Stukeley Road as planned.

There have been concerns about the siting of the store, near the busy iron bridge junction, and its impact on traffic since before the outlet opened.

At present the store has single lanes going in to, and out of, its car park and there can be gridlock, especially at peak times.

Now Lidl has applied to create a two-lane exit on to Stukeley Road so that traffic trying to turn left no longer gets stuck behind vehicles turning right and there would be a "keep clear" box opposite to aid right turns.

The scheme is being recommended for approval by planners at Huntingdonshire District Council and it will be discussed by the authority's development management committee on December 16.

Long-running problems involve vehicles attempting to turn right to leave towards the town centre which can end up jamming the exit because their way out is blocked by streams of traffic coming south along Stukeley Road. Traffic trying to leave to the left is then unable to get past, causing major queues in the Lidl car park.

Some drivers turning right try to force their way in to the oncoming traffic, but if no-one lets them in, northbound traffic becomes blocked, causing congestion at the adjacent traffic lights at the bridge. Some drivers who want to turn left have also taken to mounting the kerb near the shop entrance to get through.

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There have been calls for all vehicles to turn left to get out of the store and then use a nearby mini roundabout if they want to head back towards the town centre.

Huntingdon Town Council has objected to the plan, saying it would not reduce congestion in the area and the suggested right-hand turns would have an adverse effect on road safety, as would creating a second exit lane which added to the risk to pedestrians.

They recommended that the exit should allow for left-hand turns only.

The district council has received 40 representations from 33 people over three rounds of consultation. Most also said there should be a left turn only and many supported the town's view that the change would make the situation worse.

A planners' report to the development management committee said: "Cambridgeshire County Council Highways also note that this application does not indicate the removal or banning of right-turning traffic which was accepted during the original application.

"This is an issue that has been raised through the majority of representations received."

The report said: "A restriction to a left hand turn only from this car park is not proposed and is not under consideration as part of this application. A left hand only exit from the site cannot now be imposed as the original planning permissions (both the inspector's appeal decision in 2013 and the later planning permission in 2014) were acceptable without any such restriction."

It added: "There is no unacceptable impact on highway safety and the residual cumulative impacts on the road network would not be severe through the proposal and therefore the application cannot be refused on these grounds."

The report said that although pedestrians had an extra lane to cross, traffic flow leaving the car park was not heavy enough to cause significant delays and that the speed of vehicles was "very low".