We’ve recently been listening to the borough council’s on-line broadcast ‘Clean, Green and Safe’ that was made earlier this month. (We can’t always watch such events live, so it’s helpful that recordings are available.) The final item was of particular interest to us, as it was about the pedestrianisation of the High Street.
In a nutshell, it was said that there is a range of views about pedestrianisation, with some people pro and some anti. Now there’s a surprise! – there can be few issues where there’s 100% agreement As a result, the council believes it has to take everyone’s interests into account before doing anything. Which, as far as we can see, means that the council is going to do nothing.
This saga has been going on for thirty years, with the borough council’s stance as firm as a jelly. Remember the Vision video of a few years ago? – the source of our photo below. It shows a largely traffic-free High Street. Yet, apparently, the council isn’t doing anything to turn that impression into reality. Either the subject is in the ‘Too Difficult’ box, or – surely not – parts of the council have no intention of delivering the council’s own Vision.
The frustrating thing is the brainlessness of the argument. Pedestrianisation isn’t a black-and-white issue. A sensible compromise would be to ban traffic at peak shopping times only. They’re the times when 30 mins-only parking is largely academic; when there are too many cars competing for spaces for drivers to be sure that they can park.
What’s more, the council shows no signs of getting the data to help decide what to do. What proportion of drivers parking in the High Street actually shop there, as opposed to shopping in the Mall? ie are they actually of any benefit to High Street shops? What do shoppers actually want? – as determined by a proper survey, not just by a few conversations. (As far as we know, we’re still the only one to have collected shoppers’ views in a structured way – clipboard in hand). How much do those who use 30 mins parking actually spend? What do they buy? Or, perhaps most important of all, what IS the future role of our High Street? Is it to be part of a ‘destination town’, or is it going to be a local shopping parade?