FAMILIES living in a Southampton street have condemned the “chaos” caused by the creation of a traffic-free zone in a neighbouring road.

Part of Bedford Place has been closed to vehicles in a move aimed at enhancing social distancing as well as improving air quality in the area.

Supporters of the experimental scheme say it will increase the number of people visiting shops and bars and help traders recover from the lockdown.

But the partial pedestrianisation of Bedford Place is causing confusion among motorists.

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Many of those heading towards the city centre are driving as far as the barrier that marks the start of the new traffic-free zone.

Prevented from reaching Cumberland Place they are turning into Canton Street - only to find they have entered a no through road and need to make a U-turn.

Residents say the situation improved after extra mitigation measures were put in place following the launch of the scheme on Friday.

But problems have continued to occur, sparking fears the area will be hit by traffic problems over the bank holiday weekend.

On Saturday residents held an open-air protest meeting at which they listed their concerns and called for urgent action to resolve the issue.

They said more needed to be done to ensure southbound drivers were diverted before the reached the junction of Bedford Place and Canton Street.

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Protester Sonja Kimber said: “It was absolute chaos here on Friday. It’s a narrow street with vehicles parked on both sides and yet people are turning into the road and then trying to turn around.

“Someone was almost knocked off their bicycle and one vehicle reversed into a lamppost.”

The extra measures put in place on Friday night and Saturday morning includes “No Through Road” signs at the top of Canton Street.

Residents welcomed the improvements but said drivers needed to be made aware of the Bedford Place road closure before they reached the area.

One householder said: “Friday was a nightmare. Okay, it was day one of the scheme and the council seem to think things will sort themselves out but there needs to be continuous monitoring.

“I totally understand why the scheme has been introduced. It’s a question of finding a way for everyone to co-exist.”

Traders supporting the initiative include Jane Morrison, manager of Cafe Monde, pictured below.

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She said: “It’s doing something for air quality and bringing in extra footfall, which will help local traders including the independents. Everyone in this place seems to think it’s a good idea.”

The council’s Green City boss Cllr Steve Leggett said: "“To support social distancing and help boost the local economy, we recently introduced temporary road closures in the Bedford Place area of the city centre.

“We understand that some concerns have been raised and we are actively engaging with these to make sure that any issues highlighted are addressed in a timely and efficient manner.

"Our teams have been onsite over the weekend and on Monday to review how the changes are performing and to take any action required. During the early stages of any new scheme, we do anticipate a settling in period as road users adapt to the changes made.

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Cllr Stephen Leggett

"We have already installed additional signage to aid this process and will continue to monitor the scheme closely, making any further ongoing changes where necessary.”

He added: "We would stress that the scheme has only been live since the weekend and we are keen for everyone to give these measures a proper try.

"They are providing a safer, more spacious environment for people walking while creating the potential for increased trade for local businesses.

"The changes are also a crucial part of the ‘Inside Out’ initiative, a new joint project that we recently launched alongside the BID to help hospitality businesses introduce new or extended outdoor seating and to simply the application process for pavement licenses.

"In addition to the Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, we believe this combination of measures will bring a much-needed boost to our local businesses following an incredibly challenging period for the hospitality trade.

"We reiterate this is a temporary scheme which has been implemented under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order.

"This allows us to assess the impact and effectiveness of any changes made, along with feedback received, before a decision is taken on whether or not they are made permanent.

"We would encourage anyone wishing to comment on the changes to do so by writing to: Traffic.Orders.Legal@southampton.gov.uk”