EXPERTS have warned that a pilot scheme changing the traffic flow through Salisbury’s Cathedral Close could lead to accidents and congestion and should be postponed.

Close resident George Apter hired traffic consultants Badingham Ltd to assess the measures, due to be trialled from August 4 to 30.

They involve closing the High Street Gate to vehicles from 1pm to 6pm Monday to Friday and from 1pm to 4pm on Saturdays.

Drivers will use St Ann’s Gate to enter the Close instead, and the only exit will be the Harnham Gate.

The consultants have told Wiltshire Council, the highway authority, that “significant issues” have not been addressed.

St Ann’s Gate was originally closed to traffic because it was too dangerous, they say. It is heavily used by tourists getting off coaches, and by schoolchildren, and is part of the National Cycle Route. No signs are planned to warn pedestrians or cyclists about the new traffic.

At the High Street Gate, signs proposed by the council will say it is closed from 1pm to 6pm and tell motorists to use St Ann’s Gate during those hours.

There will be no directions round the one-way system for visitors.

And when the High Street Gate is open, on Saturdays after 4pm and on Sundays, there are concerns drivers will still think they have to go to St Ann’s Gate, which will be closed to traffic.

All this is “likely to result in drivers becoming distracted, which will increase the likelihood of collisions”, say the consultants.

Delivery lorries will be unable to get into the Close because only the High Street Gate is big enough.

And people living in the area fear they could damage the historic stonework of St Ann’s Gate. Signs designed by the council state that there is a height limit of 2.65m and width limit of 2.5m, but a vehicle that size will not fit.

The consultants also warn that the St Ann Street/Exeter Street junction will need to be altered, as the current lights and signs make it illegal to drive through the gate. They say no information has been given about access to the Close for the emergency services in the long term. And they say there should be a safety review before any trial begins, assessing the impact on key junctions during term time.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “The cathedral's authorities have worked with us to design a scheme to help with the traffic situation in the Close, particularly in preparation for the Magna Carta event next year. The initial month-long pilot will be closely monitored by Wiltshire Council and the cathedral authorities.”