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Council in 'build-out' blunderland - by CLIFF MOGG

BLUNDERING Rushmoor Council chiefs were forced to halt a road scheme on Monday after a protest by Aldershot jeweller Lee Graham.

BLUNDERING Rushmoor Council chiefs were forced to halt a road scheme on Monday after a protest by Aldershot jeweller Lee Graham.

They ordered workmen to down tools after Mr Graham complained that traders had been kept in the dark about the plan to create a new bus stop outside the Wellington Centre.

To his amazement he also discovered that none of the town's borough councillors knew anything about the controversial project either.

"This scheme has come completely out of the blue," he said on Monday. "I can't even find any mention of it in the minutes of council meetings for this year."

Not only is he annoyed at the lack of consultation, but he believes the work opposite his shop in Victoria Road is creating an accident black spot.

The scheme involves creating a built-out bus stop just above the Wellington Centre entrance which will reduce the road to one lane.

And Mr Graham fears that drivers will swing to the left as they pass the bus stop, at exactly the point where pedestrians will be stepping off the pavement to cross the road.

He said: "It's a recipe for serious accidents because drivers won't be able to see round the parked buses."

As a taste of things to come, he spent part of Saturday lunchtime trying to get traffic on the move after it became gridlocked near the roadworks.

In another swipe at the council, he believes it has acted illegally by removing disabled bays from outside his shop and putting down double yellow lines.

Mr Graham said he had not seen any public notices, either in local papers or in the road, advertising this change.

Andrew Lloyd, council chief executive, admitted on Monday that the businesses in Victoria Road should have been asked for their views.

"That did not happen in this case and I have given them an unequivocal apology," he said. "I deeply regret what's happened."

The scheme - part of a so-called county bus route improvement project - was discussed by the borough's traffic focus group in March.

But following that meeting there was no attempt to put traders in the picture.

He hopes to hold a "clear the air" meeting with town centre manager Jenny Rawlings, Mr Graham and other interested parties tomorrow (Friday).

"They obviously have deep concerns about the practicality of the work and we need to see if we can address them," said Mr Lloyd.

On the question of the double yellow lines outside Mr Graham's shop, he said: "I believe they will have to come up and that we will have to advertise the proposed change."


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