LOCALS were not consulted over plans to reopen Bedford Place as "it was put in place to support businesses".

This is what Southampton's deputy council leader told a scrutiny panel last night, as he and other city leaders were quizzed over the controversial to reopen the city road.

After being controversially closed last summer to allow outdoor seating and promote social distancing, the newly-elected Conservative council announced in May the road would be reopened to traffic.

This, Cllr Jeremy Moulton stressed, was after 57% of neighbouring businesses said they were against the road closure.

He added: “We are coming out of a global pandemic, I am not prepared to ignore the majority of businesses and gamble with their livelihoods.”

But many have asked why residents who have been using the outdoor seating area were not consulted.

One local at the meeting told councillors it was “wonderful to see the street full of people enjoying themselves” while another resident said removing the pedestrianisation in Bedford Place would be “a step backwards”.

Talking to Cllr Moulton, Cllr John Noon added: “Why did you not allow the trial to continue through the summer and see what the benefits were?”

Cllr Moulton said the scheme was put in place to support businesses and social distancing and social distancing restrictions end on July 19.

He added that residents and businesses will be consulted "over future plans" to improve the Bedford Place area.

He said: “We didn’t feel it was responsible to ignore the majority of views from the business community. We need to realise the wider community aspiration and that is why I am so keen that we can make a success the future co-design for the area.”

Concluding the debate  Cllr Lorna Fielker, chair of the committee, said: “I think the jury is still out on whether it should be reopened to traffic or not. Specific learning that we think that needs to be done is ensuring that we engage with stakeholders.”

The road is set to reopen on Tuesday, July 20.