MORE than 400 people have joined the campaign to reopen Hyde Street in Winchester, with a counter petition close to hitting its target.

An online petition has attracted around 400 signatures in the last two weeks taking the number to 1,555.

Its organisers claims almost all the supporters are local to Winchester.

The number has doubled in around three weeks, backing the petition on the website.

An earlier petition on by Extinction Rebellion backing measures to limit vehicle use in the city centre now has 793 names towards a target of 800.

Last year the county and city councils introduced a temporary closure to through traffic to allow for the narrowing of the two-lane North Walls for better social distancing and to encourage walking and cycling.

But opponents say the price being paid is too high with clear evidence that the closure is increasing traffic on nearby roads such as Worthy Lane, Andover Road and City Road, leading to more congestion and pollution.

They are considering legal action over the introduction of the measure last year, made with no public consultation.

The closure has the support of most of the residents of Hyde Street who have seen traffic levels fall sharply.

The issue is the most controversial road closure in the city since the shutting of College Street in the early 1990s.

Petition organiser Steve Harbourne originally aimed at 1,000 signatures but has now increased the target to 2,000.

The county council is consulting over an 18-month closure. It runs until March 21.

The council is also asking opinions on other proposals: the narrowing of North Walls to a single lane, the widening of the footway on that street and a two-way cycle lane; a wider pavement on Jewry Street on the Discovery Centre side; a contraflow cycling lane on Upper High Street and a Puffin crossing on Romsey Road at the junction with Clifton Terrace.

In a letter to be published in the Chronicle on Thursday, Mr Harbourne said the vast majority of names were from people local to Winchester and the surrounding villages.

Mr Harbourne, of Worthy Lane, said: "Unsurprisingly as this is an important local issue more than 99.9 per cent of this support has come from people living in Winchester itself or the surrounding villages. Only half a dozen or so are from those outside the immediate locality.

"As many have previously said in this paper and elsewhere, it is not just Worthy Lane that has been adversely affected by the closure. The vehicles no longer using Hyde Street are now following Council diversion signs into Worthy Lane, Andover Road and City Road in each direction leading to increased congestion including that through the notoriously busy Carfax junction."

The Extinction Rebellion petition does not explicitly call for Hyde Street to be permanently closed but supports a measure that would make that necessary, reducing North Walls to a single lane for cars. It also wants similar measures on St George’s Street, City Bridge, Stockbridge Road and Romsey Road.

It also calls for restricting the use of inner-city car parks like Middle Brook, Colebrook and The Brooks to blue badge holders and city centre residents only.

Areas where there is a high density of people, such as The Square, Jewry Street, the upper part of High Street should be pedestrianised.

The petition states: "As lockdown is eased we must ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is the top priority in Winchester’s recovery from COVID-19.

"Numerous studies have demonstrated that increased pedestrianisation leads to higher footfall meaning that local businesses could also benefit from these measures."