IT perhaps feels to many like the raft of changes to the roads in Colchester town centre came about overnight.

And in truth, they almost did - within the space of a few days at least.

The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, as well as securing funding, forced County Hall to act quickly.

The man behind the changes, Essex County Council infrastructure boss Kevin Bentley, has admitted they had to act fast.

Usually changes like this would be proceeded by weeks, if not months of preparation and consultation.

But now the changes are in place, Mr Bentley feels positive about the future of Colchester town centre.

He said: “On Tuesday last week I cycled from Mersea into Colchester and saw the changes for myself. I believe it is a lot better and a lot safer for people.

“When I got into the High Street I saw people social distancing, which is the main reason for doing this. People had the freedom to queue safely.

“There are still vehicles in the High Street, it is not a blanket ban on them, but from what I saw people found it quite relaxing and there were a fewer vehicles coming down the road.”

Buses, taxis, blue badge holders, delivery drivers, cyclists and motorbikes are still able to use the High Street, but general traffic is not.

There are also changes across several other town centre roads, including slower speed limits.


The first thing residents will probably notice are the bright orange barriers blocking sections of roads like St John’s Street and North Station Road to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists.

Some have described them unsightly, but Mr Bentley explains they are just a temporary measure and they’ll be replaced with more permanent examples soon.

He is quick to point out all of the new restrictions can be changed if there is a need to do so.

“I believe we can improve the signage and I have already fed that back to the team as well as clarify more the rules for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.

“All the comments I have received so far have been constructive and about ways which we can change things.


  • Kevin Bentley believes the high street changes have started well

“At the end of the day we are doing something which has never been done before. It is not like the pedestrianisation we tried some time ago.

“I have set up a monitoring committee in Colchester which will consist of county councillors, borough councillors, cabinet member David King, officers and the Our Colchester BID.

“These folks will be the ones who decide what happens, not me. We can always improve and make things better.”

Mr Bentley has said, if people like the new rules, in particular the car ban, they could stay.

But the monitoring committee will need to support the changes and what is in place now might not necessarily be the best way to take things forward.

He said: “The main message out of all of this is safety. We were forced to bring in these changes to meet social distancing guidelines.

“The other side is the moral and social question about having to address about climate change.

“I want to compare the air quality now to a year ago.

“Of course it will be better but we think we are seeing the best air quality in the town for decades. This is important for people’s long-term health.

“It is important we all understand we all play a part in fighting congestion. It isn’t about a war on cars, I appreciate people in the borough will have to use their cars, but we all need to try and make a difference.”

For more about the changes, visit