Dozens of cars a day are illegally driving through a pedestrianised stretch of road in the heart of a city centre – 20 years after they were banned from the road.
A Daily Echo investigation has found drivers are continuing to flout the law and are using parts of Winchester city centre as a rat run, despite it being designated purely for buses, taxis and local access.
A new survey has found that more than 80 cars and vans used the busy route along the lower High Street, Middle Brook Street and St George’s Street in just eight hours.
The area is meant only for buses, taxis and deliveries, yet our survey, which was carried out on a Wednesday and Thursday, recorded 39 cars and 41 vans illegally using the road.
Previous attempts to thwart the practice were made eight years ago – 15 years after the traffic ban was originally introduced at the time The Brooks shopping centre was built – but fell on deaf ears.
A similar survey carried out in 2006 found 290 vehicles a day were using the route around what is set to become the edge of the new Silver Hill development. That seven storey scheme will see new homes and shops on land behind the High Street.
As reported in the Daily Echo at that time, Hampshire County Council discussed the use of mobile CCTV cameras to clamp down on the illegal use, but the idea was dropped.
The now defunct Winchester Residents’ Association conducted previous surveys.
Its main campaigner, Maurice Charrett, said: “It is obvious standing at The Brooks how many cars and vans go through there from either Silver Hill or the High Street and it has not been resolved.
“When you think of the pollution levels of the number of unauthorised and authorised vehicles for what is a semi-pedestrianised area, it is a real problem.
“I have had several mothers saying they’re pushing their children to the city and there’s all these exhaust fumes coming out at the level of the push chairs.”
But this week, one driver who asked not to be named, said he was not even aware that the lane was meant for buses only – despite the signs located at the corner of Middle Brook Street and St George’s Street and on the High Street by Marks and Spencer.
The issue has sparked concern with many locals including Winchester Friends of the Earth who said it needs to be tackled.
A spokesman for the group, said: “I’m glad to see that someone’s doing the survey and it would be good to see the ban enforced.
“There are lots of issues in the town that could do with further traffic enforcement — too many cars go where they’re not supposed to and that’s quite common.”
When asked about enforcing the ban, Winchester City Council said that dealing with moving vehicles was a police matter.
In the past it has said the problem would be removed once the Silver Hill development is completed as buses will be re-routed along Friarsgate.
However, Stagecoach recently revealed they want to carry on using the Middle Brook Street and St George’s Street route meaning the issue could remain.
Hampshire police today said they would be looking at the information provided by the Daily Echo.
A spokesman said: “"Officers regularly patrol Winchester City Centre and if they see anyone using the Bus/Taxi Lane illegally they will take appropriate action.”