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Vince Cable questions Lendal Bridge closure decision
BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has suggested there was “an extraordinary” lack of consultation with York businesses before Lendal Bridge was closed to cars.
He claimed had City of York Council consulted with them more, it might have avoided some of the pitfalls that have since emerged.
The York-born cabinet minister spoke out about the authority’s controversial six-month trial closure of the bridge – and the “staggering” number of motorists fined for breaching the ban – during a weekend visit to the city to launch a local business survey.
Speaking after meeting a number of business people, he told The Press they had expressed concerns about the impact of the closure on the tourist industry, residents and visitors.
The Liberal Democrat stressed it was not his job to come and tell people in York how to run their affairs, saying such issues should be decided locally.
“But it does seem to me extraordinary that there had been so little consultation with the business community,” he said. “Some of the pitfalls could have been avoided at that stage.”
Referring to the numbers of motorists issued with penalty charge notices for crossing the bridge between 10.30am and 5pm, which stood at almost 26,000 by mid-November, he said: “Apparently, a staggering number of people have been fined – it does seem extraordinary.”
Mr Cable said he was delighted to support the local survey, launched by members of his party in York, which seeks views on what help and assistance small businesses need to prosper, and includes questions asking about the bridge closure.
“It is crucial that we listen to what employers are saying and ensure that everything is being done to support businesses locally as well as understanding the impact on the ground of national issues,” he said.
Coun Keith Aspden, the council’s Liberal Democrat group leader, said copies of the survey would be sent to more than 500 businesses across York in coming weeks.
He claimed the Labour-run council had taken completely the wrong approach over the bridge closure.
He said: “To help create jobs, the council needs to work hand-in-hand with local businesses and tap into their experience and expertise. Our survey aims to do this and give local businesses a stronger voice in York.”
But Coun Dave Merrett, Labour cabinet member for transport, said similar views to Mr Cable’s had been expressed when controversial measures such as pedestrianisation and the Deangate closure past the Minster were introduced.
“I do hope the Business Secretary and the York Lib Dems are using their survey to promote the consultation that has been in place throughout the trial,” he said.
“Anyone can take part by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/s/lendalsurvey or by emailing email@example.com. All views expressed will be taken into account before a decision on the trial is taken.”
He said it was ironic that the trial was a key part of the Better Bus initiative funded by a Lib Dem Transport Minister to help promote more sustainable travel, and that the potential closures of both Ouse and Lendal bridges were part of Lib Dem transport plans passed by the council when they were in control.
“A variety of local Lib Dem party members, including former councillors, are telling us they are very much in favour of the trial becoming permanent due to improving public transport reliability, and the public realm,” he said, adding he would be pleased to discuss the matter with Mr Cable when he was next in York.
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