BUSINESSES in Beccles have collected more than 2,000 signatures against a Friday road closure in the town centre.

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New Market has been closed to traffic on Fridays to allow space for a market, but as a consultation period into the closure is set to conclude, shopkeepers handed a 2,058 signature petition against it to Suffolk county councillor Chris Punt.

Next week Mr Punt will analyse all the replies and petitions collected from people across the town, before he puts forward his recommendations about the closure. “If change has to be made I am happy to make it happen, but we will only do it once I have looked at all the data,” he said.

The road has been closed on Fridays between 6am and 4pm since August, but a consultation has been held this month after complaints that the closure of the road had a negative impact on other businesses in the town.

Through the consultation, businesses and market traders have been asked to give their opinion as well as shoppers.

Mr Punt said: “I have been very impressed by the amount of people who have signed the petitions and the interest shown.

“It just disappoints me that, when we asked a year ago to decide on the road closure to see about developing the project and spending the money, we only had three objections, and now we have at least 2,058.”

Mr Punt was particularly disappointed as Waveney District Council spent £10,600 on the scheme, while the town council contributed £6,000 with a view to helping the market expand.

Businesses have since complained that the closure has hit their trade.

Christine Pinsent, chairman of the Beccles Business Association, said: “People have not been coming into Beccles on a Friday which has not helped the local independent retailers in the town centre as their takings have been down and once you lose customers and they get into a different routine it takes a while to get them back.”

She added: “We are all proud of our town centre and want it to stay the unique area it is with so many independent retailers giving a variety of shops with good customer care.”

A petition was also collected by the market traders, who have said that more time needs to be given to the road closure. They collected 210 signatures on two Fridays.

At the time market trader Dominic Parkes said that allowing the road to be open would be a step back and that it needed to be given a “decent period of time” to clearly see the effect.

The consultation is due to end tomorrow.

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