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DERBYSHIRE CC WINS CASE AGAINST BUS COMPANIES

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Two Derbyshire bus operators who were trying to stop the county council from closing off Ilkeston's main shopping s...
Two Derbyshire bus operators who were trying to stop the county council from closing off Ilkeston's main shopping street to all traffic for 12 months, have been defeated in London's High Court.

The Trent Motor Traction Company Ltd and Barton Buses Ltd claim the 12-month closure of Bath Street during £1.6 million pedestrianisation works will have a 'horrific' effect on their business and may drive consumers to shop elsewhere. But Justice Harrison said he could find no legal flaw in Derbyshire County Council's decision to close the street to all traffic from August 15. The year-long traffic ban will be followed by two three-month 'experimental' periods, during the first of which buses will remain barred from travelling up and down Bath Street.

John Male, for the bus companies, said the effect of the ban on his client's business could be devastating. After what was effectively a 15-month ban, the bus companies would have an uphill task winning their customers back and many shoppers might have decided to take their custom elsewhere. He claimed that the ban flew in the face of 'assurances' given to the bus companies by the chairman of the council's Highways and Transport Committee in September last year. The bus companies had been told of proposals for two three month 'experimental' bans, the first on all traffic but during the second of which buses would be allowed to use Bath Street. But they were assured that the experimental periods would 'precede' the pedestrianisation works, claimed Mr Male.

The council's decision amounted to a 'complete reversal of what the bus companies had been led to believe would happen', said Mr Male. The bus companies had never been consulted on the proposals actually adopted and were given 'absolutely no chance to object', he said.

There would eventually be a public inquiry into whether or not buses would be allowed to use Bath Street in the long-term and the council's decision had 'prejudiced' the bus companies' hopes. With the pedestrianisation works complete and the money already spent the 'dice would be loaded' against the bus companies at the public inquiry, he claimed. Mr Male also alleged that the council had failed to have regard to its legal duty to ease the passage of public vehicles and to secure the safety and convenience of public transport users.

But Mr Nigel Lewis, for the county council, said that 'the question of prohibiting buses from Bath Street had been given long and careful consideration' over more than two years. The bus companies had known that the pedestrianisation works would take 15 months, and he denied claims that the council's decision on June 7 had come out of the blue. Justice Harrison said he was satisfied that the bus companies must have known of the proposed 12-month ban 'through one channel or another' before June 7. The county council was well aware of the bus companies' objections about the closure of Bath Street to traffic. The judge ruled that the bus companies had no arguable case and refused to open the way for a full Judicial Review of their complaints against the county council.

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