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Government rejects bid to have Cemetery Road permanently closed

Cemetery Road (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Attempts by Belco to have Cemetery Road closed permanently were rejected, government said yesterday.

The Pembroke road was closed to traffic in December 2018 as part of the construction of the energy provider’s North Power Plant and remained shut until this week.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works said: “This decision was made with the understanding of all parties impacted by the closure that upon completion of the project, the road would be reopened for public access.

“Despite this understanding, the Ministry can confirm that a request was received from Belco to have Cemetery Road permanently closed.”

The spokesman said Belco sought to keep the road shut primarily for safety reasons.

He said: “The issue was that on completion of the North Power Plant, Cemetery Road crossings by Belco staff, which included transportation of material and equipment, would increase from 15 per day to over 120, thus creating a safety hazard to Belco staff and the motoring public.

“While the Ministry understands and appreciates the need for safety, and the increased crossings may raise the level of risk, we must also take into account the impact on all area residents and businesses.

The Ministry can confirm receipt of numerous objections from area residents and businesses to the permanent closure of Cemetery Road.

“Furthermore, the Ministry was advised that the road closure negatively impacted foot traffic and the revenue generated by businesses in the area, with at least one closing its physical location.”

The statement said Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, has met with Belco and area stakeholders in an effort to strike a balance between the needs of residents and the safety concerns, and the Ministry’s principal highways engineer is working with Belco staff.

Col Burch said: “I strongly believe that it is only through open communication and dialogue, that we can resolve issues and devise solutions that are in the best interest of all.

“Some of the solutions under consideration include the installation of rumble strips, speed bumps and traffic lights, to the possibility of a railroad type crossing.

“Whatever solution is implemented, the Ministry can confirm that Cemetery Road will remain open to the public.”

The closure of the road was originally expected to last for just over a year, but work on the site forced the closure to be extended for an additional year.

David Rowntree, owner of Cemetery Road-based windows specialist Treecon, said the closure had caused an inconvenience to customers.

He said: “The reopening is more than welcomed by all of the businesses on this street and the population who use it on a constant basis.”

Mr Rowntree said he has been involved in discussions about the fate of the road, and he believed that measures could be introduced to keep the road open while ensuring safety.

He said: “I see no preparations by Belco for any of the traffic crossings they were concerned about, but I’m sure they will eventually put in lights or rumble strips to protect their staff.

“I have been on that street for over 20 years and we have never had a problem with Belco staff going across.

“If they take precautionary measures and put lights and crossings in, I’m sure their staff will be protected.“

Mr Rowntree said that while the reopening would be beneficial, action should also be taken to address other challenges in the area, particularly flooding.

He said: “Over the years the road has sunk and now it is below the high-water line for the creek.

“All they need to do is raise the level back to where it was originally, which will prevent the daily flooding.”

Another business affected by the road closure was Animal and Garden House, which closed its brick and mortar store on Cemetery Road in June 2019 citing a drop in foot traffic and increased costs.

However the business survived by transitioning to an online model, focusing on sales through its website.

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Published January 07, 2021 at 8:18 am (Updated January 07, 2021 at 8:16 am)

Government rejects bid to have Cemetery Road permanently closed

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