Businesses could take Cornwall Council to the High Court over a controversial scheme to narrow a road, which they believe could lead to someone being killed. 

Traders in Truro commissioned their own safety assessment after the council decided last week it was okay to continue the work.

Earlier this month Cornwall Council paused work to widen the footway along Newham Road to create a shared pedestrian and cycle path as part of the Truro Loops project to improve healthy transport links in the city. 

The project means narrowing a 350m section of road into Newham, which is home to 180 businesses employing 1,200 people. More than 40 local businesses objected to the plans, concerned about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians along what is the only road in and out of the estate.

Cllr Connor Donnithorne, portfolio holder for transport, told a Cornwall Council meeting last week: “No further recommendations to change that proposal were made as a result of a road safety assessment and therefore as decision makers one has to go on the evidence. All viewpoints were taken into account and it’s right that we follow the evidence.”

However, an independent safety audit has concluded that the scheme will cause “extreme danger” to cyclists and pedestrians. The damning report by leading UK transport consultants TPA, which was commissioned by the Newham Business Improvement District (BID), says the plans are “unsuitable and unsafe”.

The report states that far from creating a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, it would have the opposite effect, “putting those vulnerable road users at high risk”.

Newham BID, which promotes Newham as a business location, is now looking at a potential judicial review into the council’s decision-making process or even a High Court injunction to stop the project going ahead.

Transport experts TPA say the plans mean that two heavy good vehicles travelling in opposite directions would barely be able to pass on the new 6.5m-wide section, adding: “it is likely that one vehicle would often be forced to mount the new shared foot/cycle path in order to pass comfortably, causing extreme danger to any cyclist or pedestrian using the path”.

TPA added that the plans do not appear to have been the subject of any safety audit by the council when they were first drawn up. When the council did finally carry out an audit – only following a raft of objections from local businesses concerned about safety – it used its own contractor Cormac rather than an independent auditor. TPA describes this as “highly irregular” and a failure to follow national guidance for highway design.

Cllr Donnithorne was unable to comment about Newham BID’s move until after a meeting with council officers today (Wednesday, April 26) to discuss the concerns raised.

BID Manager Mel Richardson said: “The independent safety assessment we commissioned confirms our worst fears that this project will cause extreme danger to cyclists and pedestrians along Newham Road.

“It also suggests that the council has followed a highly questionable design process in drawing up this scheme, which we believe flies in the face of best practice, and the data it has used to justify narrowing the road is in our view demonstrably flawed. We are urging the council to drop this dangerous scheme before someone is seriously injured or even killed.”

One of the 45 businesses on Newham that has opposed the scheme – which also include Aldi and Tesco – is crane hire company Macsalvors. It recently set up a photo at its Newham depot to illustrate how two of its cranes would be just centimetres apart if passing each other on the narrowed road.

Managing director Cameron MacQuarrie, who employs 65 people at Newham, said: “Apart from the safety question, if this road is narrowed then it will put additional strain on local businesses and it really begs the questions about how serious the Council is about supporting a major employment site not just for Truro, but the county.”