A SENIOR Lib Dem has justified the closing of a popular Winchester rat run.

Cllr Martin Tod, cabinet member with responsibility for traffic, believes pedestrianising The Square is essential to help local businesses recover.

This comes after a resident slammed the decision, which has seen access from St Swithun Street and Symonds Street cut off.

Stephen Perriman said the alternative route through the one-way system is a "waste of time and fuel".

"Supposedly closed at weekends as a Covid measure I drove into town to visit my High Street bank via Southgate Street and via St Thomas Street as usual to find access blocked." he told the Chronicle.

"After driving all round the one way system I eventually arrived at The Square. I arrived to find five council workers and one manager putting up new signs and barriers so that residents cannot access the square now without driving all the way around the one-way system.

"A complete waste of time and fuel and another way for LibDumbs to stop people coming in to town to support our struggling shops. So madcap schemes like this is where our 3 per cent council tax increase is going. The LibDumbs won’t be happy until they have killed off all trade in the High Street completely."

Cllr Martin Tod said that one of the biggest reasons for the closure is to support local companies.

"Local businesses are telling us that full pedestrianisation of the top of the Square at the weekend – as well as safely putting out pavement seating during the week – is essential to enable them to recover from the extreme challenges they have faced and continue to face from Covid," he said.

"It was only possible to do that with a new scheme that cut through traffic – which was developed by the city council with county council support in close consultation with residents and businesses.

"I’m sorry the resident missed the signs making it clear that it was not possible to access the Square from St Swithun Street and Symonds Street – these are now being made clearer.

"And while the council continues to encourage people to park further out, walk for a few extra minutes and save money, if they wish to park in the Square, they will still be able to do so."

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