Planters installed to help keep people safe and aid social distancing have been illegally removed and damaged – hours before the town was placed on a coronavirus watchlist.
Beccles Town Council installed the planters in New Market earlier this year to close the road to traffic to allow shoppers to safely socially distance, while encouraging them back into local businesses.
On Thursday night, east Suffolk was added to the regional coronavirus watchlist following a continued rise in cases, with 46 people testing positive in the last week.
Public Health Suffolk said spikes had been seen specifically in Beccles, Bungay and Lowestoft.
A spokesperson for Beccles Town Council said: “We are aware that New Market was illegally reopened to traffic on Wednesday night.
“This reopening was not carried out by Beccles Town Council and did not have the permission of Suffolk County Council, which is the highways authority.
“It appears the planters were moved overnight and were damaged in the process.
“While the experimental traffic order is to be discussed at a town council meeting later this month, it is still in effect and New Market remains closed until this order is officially modified or removed.
“Therefore, the road will be re-closed as a matter of urgency on public safety grounds and temporary barriers will probably have to be used to achieve this given the damage caused to the planters.”
The incident, which happened between 10.50pm and 11.10pm, has been reported to Suffolk Police, with anyone with information urged to call officers on 101, quoting reference 141 of October 9.
The council spokesperson said: “The criminal damage and breaches of the traffic order committed by those that illegally removed the planters and barriers have been reported to Suffolk Police.
“This highly irresponsible action is very serious as it is in contravention fo the current order and represents safety issues on both road safety and potential risks to public health relating to the ongoing pandemic.”
In August, town councillors approved a “compromise” to the controversial plans, which some businesses claimed were keeping shoppers away due to a lack of parking.
However, the plans required the final green light from Suffolk County Council, a move which was expected to take a number of weeks.
The spokesperson said: “It currently may not be possible to hold the weekly Friday market which always draws shoppers into the town with visitors supporting the town’s businesses at the same time.
“New Market is still officially closed to traffic and therefore anyone parking in this area risks a parking fine for being illegally parked.
“We agreed a proposal to amend the current order and appreciate that a number of weeks have passed since that resolution, but it needs to be understood that it is not the straightforward process some may thing, potentially involving significant costs, and that a clear legal process has to be adhered to for the safety of all.”
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