COUNCIL bosses look set to press ahead with pedestrianising Braintree High Street - some 16 months after proposals were first revealed.

Braintree Council says a survey carried out last year showed there was strong support among businesses and shoppers for stopping traffic from driving through the middle of the town centre.

The authority held a drop-in session at the town hall yesterday to allow business owners to ask further questions about the concept.

Another drop-in session will be held at the White Hart Hotel between 8am and 9am today.

Council bosses are set to discuss pedestrianisation in a meeting later this month where they will decide whether to move the scheme forward.

It is unclear how long it would take to implement the traffic ban but early indications are it could be introduced as early as next year.

News of the breakthrough with the scheme came via a leaflet which was distributed across the town centre.

The leaflet stated: "Last year, residents, businesses and visitors were invited to give their views on the possibility of restricting vehicle access to Braintree Town Centre.

"The results of the survey informed us that there is strong support for pedestrianisation with many recognising the benefits such as; improved attractiveness and creating a safer and healthier environment.

"We will shortly be discussing the option to move forward with this project at cabinet in mid December but before we do, we want to give businesses in the town centre the opportunity to find out more about the proposed scheme and ask any questions you may have."

Braintree Town Partnership has been working on the plans with council bosses ever since they were unveiled last year.

Chairman Rob Ely says pedestrianising High Street will form part of a wider project aimed at making the town centre a standout destination.

He said: "Pedestrianisation will open up multiple options for the High Street and will mean we can have a lot more events like the monthly street market.

"We need to be thinking outside the box because traditional retail on High Streets is finished. That doesn't mean there isn't a place for small independent shops but so much of it is dominated by the internet now that you have to provide something which you can't get online.

"It's things like boutiques, nail bars, barbers that people will use. If we can have a few different cafes, bars and restaurants as well then it makes Braintree town centre a place to come for a day out.

"This will set us apart from all of the other towns around in Essex."

He added: "It's not going to be easy to pull this altogether and pedestrianisation is only one element of this project. We've also got Manor Street starting next year but I think pedestrianisation is a big part of the plan for the town.

"I'm very excited to see it happen and think it will be a big thing for the town."

It is understood up to £5 million could be invested in the pedestrianisation scheme.

Council bosses will however need to work out how High Street shops will receive their deliveries, changes to bus routes and will need to consider how access for emergency service vehicles can still be provided.