Does Hucknall really need a £13m inner bypass?

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DO Hucknall people want the long-awaited £13.6 million inner bypass and part-pedestrianisation of High Street?

This question is being posed by the Hucknall branch of the Labour Party, which is planning to carry out its own extensive consultation.

Coun Chris Baron, a Hucknall Labour member of Ashfield District Council, announced the initiative at a meeting entitled ‘Heart Of Hucknall’, held at the John Godber Centre on Ogle Street.

Said Coun Baron: “We want to ensure that as many people of Hucknall as possible get a chance to express their views. Previous consultations have taken place at venues like Hucknall Library which are only open for certain hours, causing a lot of residents to miss out on the chance to voice their opinions.”

The consultation will take place on High Street and also entail some door-knocking to ensure that all parts of Hucknall are properly covered. “We will let people know the results,” said Coun Baron.

The meeting, organised by Hucknall’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, was attended by about 50 people, with businesses, councils and other organisations represented.

The aim was for a frank discussion to take place about the future of High Street and surrounding areas.

Mr Spencer said: “I am very keen to look forward. I know there are many people who support the inner bypass and many others who don’t. But the idea of the new road is there.

“I don’t know if it is going to happen or not, and I don’t think the Department of Transport knows either.”

With billions of pounds cut from the department’s budget, plans for the bypass have hit a big stumbling-block. Notts County Council, which would build the new road, will be told in January if it has been successful in a bid for funding that would enable the project to go ahead.

A presentation focusing on future plans for the town centre was on view at the meeting.

Outlining a masterplan for the regeneration of Hucknall, town-centre manager Mark Armstrong said a key need was a magnet superstore — a ‘major anchor’ — for the Market Place end of the town.

He explained that this would counterbalance the Tesco superstore, off Station Road, and hopefully boost trade at shops in between.

Mr Armstrong told the meeting that a top national retail company had said it would only be interested in coming to Hucknall if the inner bypass went ahead.

Coun Mick Murphy, a Hucknall Conservative member of the county council, has made no secret of his opposition to the new road.

He told the meeting: “I have grave concerns that it would cause a massive traffic gridlock at the junctions with Station Road and Ashgate Road. About 12,500 vehicles a day would be converging there. If the inner bypass doesn’t go ahead, we shall have to think of a Plan B.”

Mr Armstrong said everything possible was being done to attract investment that would create a thriving town centre for Hucknall.

He stressed: “A new major draw at the top end of the town centre is absolutely vital. It has the Wilkinson and B&M stores but these are tucked away from High Street. We need extra help to make businesses in the town centre more viable than they are at present.”

Mr Armstrong said Hucknall had “everything going for it” with excellent transport links and its location between two M1 junctions. It could also boast a wealth of local history.

Pat Richards, a member of Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group, said a variety of shops was needed to stimulate the Market Place end of the town centre where businesses needed a lot of help.

Tim Gudgeon, of the Dayus Furnishings shop on Annesley Road, Hucknall, made suggestions for parking improvements. He thought that if spaces allocated for residents’ parking were not taken up, with people having to pay £50 for them, they should still be used for parking in any case.

Mr Gudgeon also suggested using part of Market Place not occupied by stalls for parking on market days. But Mr Armstrong said the problem was that the stalls needed to be laid out in a certain way to get electricity.

Maurice Foster, of Papplewick Lane, Hucknall, said use of streets in the town centre as a one-way system would be a cheaper option than the inner bypass.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Spencer presented an award he has personally financed to the Hucknall branch of Specsavers for its “high level of customer service and community involvement”.