A PILOT scheme changing the traffic flow through Salisbury’s Cathedral Close has worried residents, and schools have raised fears about safety if the new system is adopted permanently.
From August 4, the High Street Gate will be closed to traffic in both directions from lunchtime onwards, Monday to Saturday.
In the afternoons, all drivers entering the Close will have to use St Ann’s Gate. The only exit will be via the Harnham Gate into De Vaux Place.
Residents were briefed on the four-week-long pilot on Friday, and some foresee mayhem.
They argue that St Ann’s Gate is currently the only safe pedestrian entrance to the Close.
And vehicles will have to make a sharp turn into it from Exeter Street, which they say will cause chaos when coach loads of tourists are disembarking nearby in St John Street.
There are also fears that lorries and vans will damage the narrow gateway’s stonework.
And once they are in the Close, they will add to the congestion in North Walk, where residents, visitors and delivery drivers all park.
The residents say there could be similar problems in De Vaux Place, with “every likelihood” that traffic would back up into the Close and create gridlock there. Any driver approaching the High Street Gate after lunchtime will have to make a U-turn and go round the one-way system.
The results of the trial will be evaluated before any permanent change is considered.
But critics say that outside term time, any assessment is unrealistic.
The head of Bishop Wordsworth’s, Dr Stuart Smallwood, has expressed fears for pupils doing PE, as St Ann’s Gate is on their running route, and drivers entering from a “busy, complex junction” may simply not see “small boys hurtling in the opposite direction”.
Leaden Hall School and the Cathedral School are also believed to have voiced concerns.
A Cathedral spokesman said the aim was to learn lessons which could increase safety for pedestrians, reducing traffic without affecting access for residents and businesses.
He said: “The High Street gate is especially busy, with lots of road traffic and over 5,000 pedestrians occupying the same space each day, and August is a particularly busy time for pedestrian visitors.”
Using the smaller gate will reduce the number of large vehicles entering the Close, and stop people using it as a short-cut, he added.
It will also stop traffic queuing at the High Street/Crane Street junction.
But the emergency services will still be able to use the High Street Gate.
Wiltshire Council will be putting up temporary traffic signs.
Parking charges will not operate during the trial afternoons.