Residents and businesses are set to be invited to help shape the future of Colchester High Street.

The council’s policy and public initiatives panel met on Wednesday evening, with the potential pedestrianisation of the High Street up for discussion.

Members of the public were invited to attend and share their views on the idea, with 15 speakers passionately putting their cases forward to the committee.

READ MORE: Options for pedestrianising high street to go before public

Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell said: “I urge the council not to disturb the equilibrium of the town centre. It already has enough problems.

“My big worry is by doing anything it will be detrimental to business, detrimental to public services and detrimental all around the town and make traffic worse elsewhere.

“I do not know anyone who comes into the High Street with their car for the hell of it – they do it for a reason.”

Many residents raised concerns over the town centre’s hilltop location and said a failed scheme in 2013 showed pedestrianisation would not work.

James Dean said the most recent trial “fell flat on its face”.

He added: “I believe it will not work because the High Street is a through road.

“If it was shut to traffic, where would the buses go?”

Nick Chilvers said hopes of full pedestrianisation saving the town’s market were misguided.

“Whimsical ideas of continental markets are good, but these things do not happen overnight,” he said.

Councillors agreed to open up the discussion further before making any recommendations to the council’s Cabinet - with the future look of the High Street, pedestrianised or otherwise, on the agenda.

Essex County Council’s deputy leader and highways boss Kevin Bentley said all options should remain on the table.

He said: “Before we ask any questions we should ask what is it that people want their High Street to be.

“Is it a retail shopping centre as it has been for so many years? Is it a market town atmosphere we want?

“Or is it a leisure zone where people come to do a bit of shopping but also eat and drink?”

Councillors agreed a new question on the future of the High Street would be examined by the panel later this year

Although an initial budget estimate of £120,000 had been set aside for investigation work, infrastructure boss Martin Goss said this would not be spent freely.

He said: “We would put this into stages where we are looking at whether or not to take this forward.

“I have been a project manager in the past - if a project is not going to deliver, it will be cancelled.

“We will not all wake up one morning and traffic will be banned in the town.

“What happened in 2013 will not happened again,” he added.

READ MORE: In November we asked our readers what they thought

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