RESIDENTS have won support from city councillors in their fight against a pilot scheme to change the traffic flow in the Cathedral Close.

They packed a planning committee meeting at the Guildhall on Tuesday to explain their concerns about the plan to close the High Street Gate to vehicles during the afternoons.

Councillors agreed that directing all traffic in through St Ann’s Gate and out through the Harnham Gate instead could have city-wide implications in terms of congestion and safety.

They will be writing to Wiltshire Council to ask how the four-week trial, which starts on Monday, will be monitored, and whether it can be stopped or modified if necessary partway through.

They also want to know who will be keeping an eye on its effect on the rest of the city’s road network.

Resident Anne Waddington said the Close community accept the need for better traffic management.

But obliging motorists to use St Ann’s Gate will “force traffic to turn blindly at a sheer angle across a pavement into a narrow archway populated by schoolchildren, pedestrians and the occasional rough sleeper”.

She urged councillors to “imagine the magical moment of ‘all change’ at 1pm” when drivers approaching the High Street Gate will have to do a U-turn to use St Ann’s Gate instead.

“They will further have to navigate a minimum of five sets of traffic lights, four speed humps and at least one roundabout, ring road traffic and a one-way system round the Chequers,”

she pointed out.

“The Close may be in the eye of the storm but I would ask you not to underestimate the effect on the rest of the city.”

Cathedral chapter clerk Katie Sporle said celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta will begin in February and “we have to know how to manage increased visitor numbers by then”.

There will be a public meeting in September when the trial results have been analysed, and no longerterm change will be introduced without full consultation.

A new access route through the Close wall is “not on the agenda”, she stressed. “We are working with what we have got.”

Committee chairman John Lindley told her the scheme had been “rushed through” and should have been thought about at least a year ago.

And Cllr Atiqul Hoque described it as “a disaster”.