A while ago, we reproduced this drawing from the council’s Local Plan 2000.
It shows the intention to construct a service road behind the shops on the east side of the High Street. This was considered necessary before the street could be pedestrianised (in some form).
You’ll see that the proposed service road comes right up to both sides of Knoll Walk. But when? The newly converted block of flats – Bradley Court – on Knoll Road has a new surface car park behind it. This borders on Knoll Walk, and seems to make rear access to the dentist and opticians in the High Street much more difficult. You can see the barriers to the car park, with Knoll Walk on the far side of the hedge, in our second picture.
It looks like we’ll have to kiss goodbye to pedestrianisation – even just for busy Saturday afternoons. Presumably the council approved the Bradley Court plans even though these were contrary to its 2000 Local Plan.
UPDATE. To be fair, the council has been ambivalent about total pedestrianisation for some years. Its Area Action Plan says “The High Street pavements, particularly the stretch between Obelisk Way and Princess Way, are narrow and crowded most shopping days. However, short term parking in the High Street is popular with shoppers and helps to support the niche retailers in this part of the town centre. A balance needs to be struck between retaining some vehicle access and on-street car parking and improving the provision for pedestrians. Improving the quality of the environment for pedestrians and where possible giving them priority within the High Street, and its links to Obelisk Way, St Georges Road and the London Road frontage respectively…….”
On the other hand, this is the council’s own artist’s impression of what the future High Street should look like:
There are cars in the background, but the picture is very much of a pedestrianised road.
To confuse the position further, the Council Leader recently expressed her personal view in public that even partial pedestrianisation was – probably – not possible because the High Street was popular for free short-term parking. No doubt free parking is popular, and favoured by some retailers. But, we suggest, in the longer term it will encourage convenience shops, take-away restaurants, newsagents, bookmakers and ‘budget shops’ to occupy the street whereas the council’s Chief Executive, speaking on the same occasion, said that a weakness of the town was that it did not have sufficient unique shops to make it a day out. Short-term parking or a day out? Is it possible to have both in a such a small town?