Council U-Turn as Newport Pagnell High Street to re-open to traffic from tomorrow

    Milton Keynes Council will be re-opening Newport Pagnell High Street from tomorrow, just days after it was closed due to social distancing.

    Cllr Jane Carr shared the news on Facebook, saying: "After almost a week on the High street listening to views and seeing the issues for myself, Cllr Douglas McCall and I have worked with officers and Cabinet Member Cllr Emily Darlington to reopen the High Street from tomorrow."

    "It has been emotional for all and I know many traders have had sleepless nights but hopefully this is a step in the right direction."

    "However, if we have a local peak in infection rates we may see the whole High Street close, so please stay safe."

    "My thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, we have a town to be proud of."

    As previously reported by MKFM last Friday, the decision was taken in an attempt to aid social distancing as a majority of shops around the country were allowed to re-open this week.

    But residents and businesses of Newport Pagnell raised concerns this week about the impact on their businesses.

    Prior to the road closure on Monday, Newport Pagnell Post Office expressed strong concerns over the impact on their business, with the Council purportedly preventing delivery and collection vehicles from using the road, making no exceptions for the Post Office.

    On their official Facebook page, they stated: "Oh dear, it appears MK Council will not make an exception for our daily post/parcels etc to be collected at 1pm from the P.O."

    "Royal Mail and Parcel Force will not be exempt and are expected to carry or drag the pick-up collection. Quite absurd."

    "Categorically this will not work and we will not allow it, for the safety of our customers, our staff and for the safety of the Mail!"

    They added: "Let us be clear, if this new ruling of closing the High Street and not allowing deliveries or essential service through and will not reconsider and allow our delivery and collections, we will have no choice but to CLOSE."

    Fortunately, through the support of local and main councillors, an exception was granted to allow these deliveries and collections to take place as normal.

    The Post Office commented: "After lots of help and support from our local councillors and MK Councillor Andy, we are very pleased to say all our deliveries will be allowed through. Thank you for your help in allowing us to maintain our essential service."

    This hasn't prevented other businesses being affected and residents being dissatisfied with the current closure, with the Post Office continuing to hold dialogues with the Council to find a way to make improvements and resolve the issues the closure has created.

    An update on their official Facebook page was posted earlier today, which stated: "Bal is meeting with MK Council Davina Head of Highways today (apologies it wasn’t this lady last Saturday) and Andy, to have a discussion about trying to resolve the issues caused by the street closure to all our business. They are all really trying hard to find a solution for everybody so fingers crossed."

    This issue was also raised by Chris Wardle during last night’s full meeting of the Council, where he questioned Councillor Emily Darlington over the closure, the manner in which it was enforced and emplored her to intervene in the matter.

    He asked: "With no formal consultation of Ward Councillors and with very scant and last-minute conversations with Newport Pagnell Town Council, Milton Keynes Council took the decision late last week to close Newport Pagnell high street to through traffic during working hours… in order to assist businesses back into trading conditions whilst complying with COVID-19 restrictions."

    "At 4pm on Monday… the vast majority of businesses on the high street had closed their doors early because it was simply not worth them being open."

    He added: "These measures, which have been implemented to assist the high street, had the complete opposite effect and are causing considerable damage."

    He concluded: "Will the cabinet member please urgently intervene and reverse these absurd measures and look again at what, if anything, needs to be done to make the high street safer for both business owners and the general public."

    Cllr Darlington responded: "The changes to the main high street were made to protect residents and give them comfort to safely return to shopping while the virus was still very much with us."

    "It also allowed non-essential retail, and soon cafes and restaurants, to re-open safely. Newport Pagnell is particularly difficult because of the narrow pavements and traffic."

    "So, I consulted with Ward Councillors and the town council, unfortunately, we didn’t have responses from all of them."

    "But, I would like to thank in particular Councillor Carr whose commitment to getting this thing right has meant she’s been out there for the last five days getting views and providing feedback and it was a pleasure to join her on the high street on Monday, and we’ve been in constant contact on the issue."

    She added: "Officers came up with a temporary scheme to widen pavements while protecting bus routes and residents who live on the high street. I recognise that it was put together very quickly and improvements have already been made since Monday to signage and divergent routes."

    "I am now personally in contact with some of the retailers and helping to correct misinformation that has been spread and to hear about how we can improve the situation."

    "I recognise the strength and divergence to the feelings out there and I’m also cognisant that the restaurants and cafes want to re-open, but will struggle to do so without outside space."

    She concluded: "I want to reassure Mister Wardle that I am listening and that the scheme will be improved within formal consultations with businesses, restaurants and residents."

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