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Sunday, 27 April 2008

Pedestrianising the High Street

The Central Somerset Gazette in its latest issue reports the latest on plans to close Street High Street to traffic.

The Parish Council debated the issue the previous week, apparently, and Terry Napper is reported as saying "There is a general feeling that things are moving too fast."

It's four years, more or less, since I first heard David Pipes suggest pedestrianisation (I see he's stepping down from local politics, by the way), so there's been time to think about it.

My own feelings are that a High Street without cars and lorries would be a much pleasanter place to shop, sit out with a coffee, and generally be sociable. Occasions when the central portion of the High Street was closed for road works or whatever have shown how pleasant it could be.

Visitors to Clarks Village would be more likely to continue their shopping in the High Street if the environment of the Village continued into the village.

It's the side-effects that need to be carefully studied.

It's not a matter of needing more parking space. The High Street central section has no parking spaces anyway. It's not a matter of delivery lorries reaching the shops. They have rear access.

There's the question of the fire service. They say they would lose precious time if they couldn't drive down the High Street. I believe that a passageway wide enough for emergency vehicles would have to be left open, and a warning bell controlled from the fire station placed in the pedestrian area. It would be good to know how many times a year our firemen need to use the High Street. I guess not many.

Trickier is the question where cars that want to get from West End to the Cross would go. People who live in Cranhill Road are afraid their road will be used as a rat-run. Farm Road, as they point out, shouldn't be used either, with the busy pedestrian crossing from one part of Clarks Village to the other. One narrow road I know in north Bristol, formerly used as a rat-run, was simply closed to cars and lorries by bollards at one end. We do need a proper traffic survey and well thought out alternative routes clearly signed.

The trouble is that the trial of closing the High Street is going to consist of a market one day a week. That will show nothing. Drivers will not get used to using an alternative route, as they will have to if and when pedestrianisation comes. They will simply drive their usual way, see that on that particular day they can't use the High Street, and with a merry song (I don't think) go down Cranhill Road instead.

So, a survey, please.

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