TRAFFIC is to be allowed back into Blackpool’s St John’s Square for the first time since the route was controversially closed.
Taxis are to be permitted to use the route in the evenings during the Illuminations in a bid to ease congestion on the Promenade.
But buses and private cars will still be banned from the square which was closed to vehicles in August 2010.
The move has been welcomed by taxi drivers and town centre businesses who would like to see the area re-opened permanently to traffic.
Warwick Tunnicliffe, chairman of the St John’s Traders, said: “It’s a start. I think many of the traders in St John’s and Cedar Square would welcome any public transport there.”
Robert Wynne, who owns the West Coast Rock Cafe on the square, said: “Personally I would like to see the taxis using the square every evening.
“It’s quite a bleak spot at night once the shoppers have gone home.
“It also feels safer with a few taxis around, while at the moment access to the Winter Gardens for disabled people is very difficult because taxis cannot drop off outside.”
Taxi drivers will have to pay £5 for a permit to drive through the square.
Bill Lewtas, of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Association which has been campaigning for its drivers to use the square again, said: “I am pleased the council has listened to our concerns about traffic congestion during the Illuminations and the lack of an alternative route through the town centre.
“But the only way they could do this was to make taxi drivers St John’s Square permit holders in the same way they allowed us to drive through Bank Hey Street when the Promenade was closed.
“We are being charged £5 as an administration fee for each permit and this will enable us to save customers money by taking shorter routes when the St John’s Square gates are open.
“This is also helpful for disabled passengers who can now be dropped off right outside the Winter Gardens.
“We are required to drive with consideration for pedestrians at no more than 10mph with headlights and flashers on.”
Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for Streets and Transport, said: “After listening to comments from local residents and taxi and private hire operators we’ve decided to open St Johns Square during the Illuminations for certain vehicles.
“Taxi drivers that have purchased a permit will be able to travel through the square on Church Street and Abingdon Street.
“We hope that this will ease the pressure on the Promenade during this busy period and make it easier for people to travel around town.”