Those Town Centre Traffic Lights!

Attached are some notes I wrote recently with regard to traffic issues in Sudbury. My aim was to try and use common sense approaches which would not involve large capital expenditure to try and assist with the flow of traffic in the town and possibly help with the congestion which occurs at certain times of the day and other bottlenecks at other times of the week.

Sam Thornton  January 2015



To improve the flow of traffic with present traffic levels and to try and improve the situation for the future, after the development of Chilton Woods, People’s Park etc. There are some simple cost effective ideas that are worth exploring.

  1. Ballingdon Hill, Middleton Road, Bulmer Road, Ballingdon Street Crossroads

These traffic lights are phased in such a way that, when 2 cars are present in either Bulmer Road or Middleton Road, the main A134 traffic lights change, obstructing the main route through Sudbury for people wishing to exit small minor roads. The queues of traffic are often nearly back to the top of Ballingdon Hill, particularly at rush hour, but also on Saturday mornings when there is more activity from the Middleton Road and Bulmer Road directions. This needs to be addressed with a change of phasing to these traffic lights. Recently when these lights were out of action, there was no congestion at this junction.

  1. Cross Street

This is obviously one of the most congested sections of roadway in the town, with the existing car parking when 2 heavy vehicles meet, it is bound to cause an obstruction. Is there no way that a comparatively small number of parking spaces could be relocated but, failing that, Cross Street suffers from the white line being located in the middle of the carriageway, rather than at the mid point between the edge of the parking bays and the far side of the carriageway and often congestion starts to build up purely when 2 cars are trying to pass, whereas at all times this is possible and it is only when commercial vehicles are involved that there should be any cause for obstruction. By re-marking the road it would give tentative drivers the confidence that they can pass, which would save considerable amount of congestion and hence pollution which appears the principal concern at the moment.

  1. Stour Street & Walnut Tree Lane

At evening rush hour Stour Street becomes congested. Walnut Tree Lane becomes a rat run to avoid the Gainsborough Street/Gregory Street junction. This is an unsafe route and will become worse once Walnut Tree Hospital is redeveloped.

Action: Make the middle section of Walnut Tree Lane one way heading towards Mill Hill. This will stop it being used as a “rat run”.

  1. Stour Street, Gregory Street, Gainsborough Road, Gainsborough Street, School Street Crossroads

Particularly at evening rush hour, this junction becomes congested with traffic backing up from the lights on The Croft, along Gregory Street which become, in effect, a single track road for vehicles wishing to remain on the inner ring road and there is no filter of traffic from 2 lanes. Traffic coming out of town along Gainsborough Road turning right onto Gregory Street appear to take priority into the Gregory Street traffic, which then causes the congestion down Stour Street. Away from this junction, traffic should be able to move in 2 lanes with filtering taking place as far down as The Croft, to increase capacity of Gregory Street.

Action: Re-ordering this junction could improve the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

  1. The Croft junction

Congestion occurs at this junction, particularly at rush hour, when the lights turn red to allow traffic to exit town centre car parks along Croft Road. Very often only 2 or 3 cars appear while the congestion is the full length of Gregory Street and into Stour Street and part of the way down Gainsborough Street. The access to this junction from The Croft is not controlled by traffic lights.

Action: Replace these lights with pelican crossing for pedestrians, leaving traffic lights at Croft Road/New Street junction for safety reasons and then allowing filtering into the inner ring road traffic, hence keeping the A road traffic flowing.

  1. The Melford Road, Gainsborough Road, Girling Street junction

This is one of the busiest junctions with a heavy pedestrian flow to schools etc and this junction is the meeting of two A routes and is rarely congested and we believe this is a good model for other pedestrian/traffic crossings in the town.

Congestion does occur but mostly there is a backlog from Aldi or Girling Street.

Action: Learn that pedestrian crossings without traffic lights cause less congestion and even on this A road intersection it is safe for pedestrians, many of whom are school children.

As a minor point move pedestrian barriers on the Melford Road approach to improve visibility of approaching traffic on one way system.

7 & 8. Girling Street

This is a 2 lane major section of the Sudbury inner ring road which is impacted by the traffic lights on Old Market Place, East Street, Girling Street junction but is more impacted by congestion when one carriageway of the road is blocked by vehicles delivering to the 2 large shop units in North Street, occupied by “Iceland” and “99p Stores” and brewery drays delivering to the Silk Worm, who park almost adjoining the traffic lights. This section of road should not be obstructed at any time. The situation with the supermarkets could be improved if the owners of the property were approached and asked to remove the boundary walls between their properties, giving greater space for vehicles to turn. Iceland do sometimes use shortened articulated lorries which can park off the road, the 99p store could park full length articulated lorries without obstructing the highway but only if they reverse tight up to the loading bay at the rear of the store. The congestion from activities on these sites impacts the full length of Girling Street, into Melford Road, Gainsborough Road at busy times of day.

Action: Should Girling Street be zoned clearway with no obstruction allowed to the carriageway it is part of the main arterial route through the town.

9, 10 & 11. East Street, Waldingfield Road

This road is at present congested at busy times of the day and will become considerably worse with the provision of a further 1,100 houses at Chilton Woods and the provision of new houses on People’s Park. The road is narrow, has on street parking and the eastern side of East Street has properties with raised front gardens which place a wall close to the carriageway. This length of road will carry 2 lanes of private vehicles and parked cars but the situation would be eased by repainting the carriageway with the white line centrally between the edge of the parking bays and the boundary of the carriageway on the east side of the road. Pavements on East Street in places are extremely wide and in situations in London where there are restricted carriageways, parking is permitted with cars being parked partly on pavements to improve the flow and this would still leave sufficient space for pedestrian access. The best solution for this length of road would be to place a weight restriction or ban heavy vehicles which can gain access to the industrial estate from the bypass if travelling from the east or via Newton Road if travelling from the town centre and, preferably, from the northern relief road via Melford Road if traffic is travelling from the Braintree or Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill direction. The only inconvenience this would cause would be for buses which presumably could be allowed to use this route. It is the heavy vehicles which cause the obstructions and one in each direction virtually completely blocks the road at rush hour. Parking spaces in this area are at a premium for residents. There is an area at the bottom of Acton Lane, close by the junction with Upper East Street, where bollards were erected originally to stop traffic coming out of Acton Lane onto East Street, where several extra residents’ cars could be parked if one set of bollards were removed, so that access were possible to this area from Acton Lane.

Example of pavement being used for parking in Lewisham, London

12. Gainsborough Street

At the present time traffic travelling along the A131 from Kings Street, through Market Hill and into Gainsborough Street, until extremely close with the Stour Street, Gregory Street, School Street junction, travels in single file. The impact of this is to increase the speed of traffic and therefore we believe that by extending parking on one side of the road down Gainsborough Street to a point much closer with the junction with Gregory Street and Stour Street, this would provide extra town centre parking and have the impact of slowing traffic down Gainsborough Street and cause no inconvenience to anyone.

13. Station Road & Station Road, Friars Street junction

Station Road is impacted by poor junctions at both ends and a very tight access from Station Road into Friars Street. We believe by making the last section of this road up to the Friars Street junction one way, travelling from Station Road into Friars Street, it would have the benefit of stopping Church Street, Friars Street, Station Road, Great Eastern Road being used as a rat run to avoid other congestion points and it would reduce the amount of traffic which causes a problem at the existing Waitrose, Great Eastern Road junction and improve the traffic flow down Station Road for the buses which are currently accessing the bus station. Obviously, depending on the final location of the bus station, this idea might need to be looked at. It would also improve the flow of traffic at the end of the day from the long stay car parks in Great Eastern Road.

14. Friars Street

This street carries 2 streams of traffic fairly well until cars are parked on double yellow lines between the Station Road junction and the commencement of the time restricted parking bays and again there is a pinch point adjoining The Priory, where traffic travelling from Church Street into town is not seen by traffic travelling down Friars Street until after it is past the beginning of the parking bays and the minor relocation of these parking bays could improve the flow of traffic in this area without restricting the number of parking bays.

15. Control of traffic by traffic lights with the town

Every set of traffic lights within the town at present causes congestion and there are reasons to believe that the congestion on the Belle Vue roundabout is exacerbated by the traffic lights for pedestrians in King Street. Peak pedestrian flows in King Street are probably not at 5 – 6pm in the evenings and often the traffic lights are red, and there are no pedestrians crossing. This situation should be compared with Melford Road, North Street, Girling Street junction where pedestrian crossing works well for the flow of traffic and the traffic appears to give way to pedestrians. Bearing in mind the council have now installed speed humps in King Street specifically to reduce the speed of traffic, we believe the traffic light crossing of the A131 by St Peter’s church could be altered to traditional pedestrian crossing. Similarly we believe the same could be done at the southern end of the Market Hill if a method were found to slow the traffic along this fast moving stretch of road which would lead to better flows of traffic and less congestion.


These observations and suggestions could be implemented at very little cost and would ease certain congestion points, to improve the flow of traffic through the town.