OPTIONS are being considered to pedestrianise towns in Warwickshire.
Data collected from monitoring equipment, set up during social-distancing measures in town centres, has revealed a ‘drop-off’ of pedestrian numbers when traffic measures were lifted.
Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) assistant director for communities, David Ayton-Hill said it was significant across town centres including Stratford and neigbouring Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth.
He said the small cameras – which tracked people to see how they moved through pedestrianised spaces – showed more footfall into town centres and an increase in cycling during pedestrianisation or traffic reduction measures.
Other measures included road closures, one way systems, temporary speed limits and pop-up cycle lanes.
He did admit there was a ‘diversity of opinion’ with some businesses reporting reduced trade, due to a lack of through traffic while, he said, many residents were ‘supportive’.
In Stratford he referred to a scheme to redevelop Bridge Street and High Street.
The project, spearheaded by Stratford Town Centre Strategic Partnership (TCSP) which includes Stratford Town Council and WCC, is thanks to an £18million bid for the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund.
Mr Ayton-Hill said the plans were similar to the Covid reallocation.
During a WCC Communities Overview and Scrutiny meeting he said: “We have a pedestrianised area up the centre of Bridge Street with restricted carriageways on the left and right to create more shared space for people to use which will encourage more pedestrian use and create a much nicer environment and a routeway up into Stratford.
“So the legacy of road-space allocations has shown we’re turning these into proper projects and longterm solutions and taking a much more considered approach to it.”
Mr Ayton-Hill said traders in leisure businesses seemed to be more positive about the traffic reduction measures while traditional retailers and smaller stores were more against them.
He also said the monitoring could be used to check if projects to ‘encourage and sustainable active travel’ was influencing behaviour.
Meanwhile, Mr Ayton Hill said the pedestrianisation of Leamington’s Parade had in particular ‘ignited an interest’ and options were being considered.
He told committe members: “By and large we found, although we had challenges and criticisms from traders, in Leamington we know people really liked the pedestrianised Parade and the environment it created. But it caused problems with bus transport and people not able to get to shops and accessibility issues, so we know there’s more to work on.
“But clearly it’s ignited an interest, so now in Leamington we are actively looking at options for the Parade which will be linked to versions of pedestrianisation – looking at options to reduce traffic and increase space for cycling, pedestrians and other uses.”
When the Parade reopened to traffic last summer, there were mixed views with some residents disappointed by the return of noise pollution and safety issues, while others welcomed the ability to catch a bus from the town’s main thoroughfare.