Close Window
Welcome to the Stratford Society
Your Local Civic Society
 
Managing Traffic and Pedestrians in Historic Towns

Program
Summary

02.00 – 02.10 Welcome to participants, Ian G. Heggie, Chairman, Traffic Sub-Committee, SuAS

02.10 – 02.30 Impact of Pedestrian Priorities on Local Businesses, Speaker from Chichester

02.30 – 02.40 Questions of clarification

02.40 – 03.10 Impact of Pedestrian Priorities on Local Tourism, Speaker from York

03.10 – 03.20 Questions of clarification

03.20 – 03.40 Managing Traffic in the Historic Town Center, Speaker from Oxford

03.40 – 04.00 Questions of clarification

04.00 – 04.30 Break for Tea/Coffee

04.30 – 05.30 Workshop discussions, “Do any of these lessons apply to us?”(participants will divide up into 3 groups)

05.30 – 06.00 Workshop leaders report back in Plenary

06.00 Reception sponsored by Stratford-upon-Avon Society

Traffic Committee - Ian G. Heggie (Chairman), Beryl Downing (Secretary), Bob Bearman (cycling and pedestrians), John Hamby (school bussing) and Paul Standing (??).

Top

Summary

Introduction

The national emphasis on the problems associated with the ever-growing increase in traffic prompted the Stratford Society to make contact with the civic societies of other historic towns to investigate common areas of concern regarding traffic, to examine whether solutions they had adopted might apply to Stratford and to form links which could result in an effective combined voice to influence national government on aspects of transport policy.

An initial questionnaire was sent to twenty societies asking them to list which areas of transport were of concern to their members. Thirteen responded and expressed interest in exchanging views at a seminar in Stratford and ten delegates were able to attend on October 10th. The main topic for discussion was pedestrian priority in historic town centres and three main speakers from Chichester, Oxford and York were followed by workshop sessions which extended the topics for discussion.

Other delegates included representatives of the Town, District and County planning departments, the police, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, local businesses, residents’ associations, disabled groups and environmental organisations. It was important to the society that the emphasis of the seminar should be non-political and that everyone would pool ideas and experiences in a spirit of listening, learning and co-operation – an aim that was notably – and unusually - achieved and was a tribute to the breadth of experience brought to the conference by the historic towns delegates.

Main Messages for Stratford Emerging from the Seminar

First, we cannot continue to sit on our hands and do nothing. The situation is getting progressively worse and the sooner we act, the easier it will be to reduce the problems caused by traffic in the town centre.

Second, the issue is not one of pedestrianisation versus ‘do nothing.’ There are many intermediate solutions, ranging from widening pavements (i.e. reallocating space between pedestrians and motor vehicles to reflect pedestrian priority), through application of traffic calming measures in the town centre, to eventual full pedestrianisation.

Third, whatever approach is adopted, it should be implemented in an incremental way based on a genuine partnership between all interested parties. The basic principle should be ‘experiment, monitor and decide’.

Fourth, town centre business stands to benefit from better management of town centre traffic. Some businesses may be adversely affected, but business as a whole is likely to experience a significant increase in turnover.

Fifth, restrictions on vehicle delivery hours are feasible. Although traders will initially complain, they appear to adapt quickly to restrictions between, say, 10.30am and 6.30pm.

Sixth, all the successful examples showcased at the seminar had complete by-passes in place. This suggests the need to re-visit the Shottery by-pass option.

Seventh, Park & Ride can play an important role, but will only be fully effective it if forms part of a comprehensive strategy which includes better management of town centre parking. There need to be more restrictions on on-street parking to ensure they are only used for ‘essential’ short-stay journeys, parking charges need to discourage long-stay visitors, who should be diverted to P&R, residential parking areas need to be further protected from motorists displaced from the town centre and more parking spaces need to be provided outside the town centre.

Key Points made by the Main Speakers

York – Mr Peter Blackwood Brown, administrator, York CivicTrust, on ‘The Impact of Pedestrian Priority on Local Tourism’,

Before York was expanded a survey showed that more than 13,000 people were directly employed by tourism and more than 30% of the population depended on tourism for their livelihood. But priority must be given to creating the right infrastructure which is also of benefit to the residents.

  • The success of York’s pedestrian priority scheme depends to a large extent on the fact that the inner city is a relatively small area clearly defined by the city walls and because of the walls and gates a measure of control is possible.
  • The Minster, one of York’s greatest assets, had a road running by it linking the north of the city to the east and at its height it had 10,000 cars passing by. This had a serious effect on the Minster and the Trust lobbied for 25 years to get the road closed. This was eventually done on an experimental basis which was felt to be the way forward in selling the project to the local residents.
  • After an experimental year a referendum was carried out which showed the 95% of the population were in favour of the closure. The benefits both to tourists and residents were so significant that they outweighed the inconvenience of having to find new routes to work and home.
  • In creating a one-way system, one gate was particularly difficult for traffic because of the very low arch and coach operators had to buy special coaches which dip to allow them to get through.
  • Some of the bar walls allow traffic through, but only in conjunction with carefully thought out traffic regimes and controls. Good signage advises approaching visitors that it is not easy to use the bar walls as an access to the centre.
  • Even when there is consensus to establish road closures, progress can be impeded by just one trader. In York’s case their decision was upheld by the inspector at a public enquiry after a great deal of time and expense – and after the trader had left the city.
  • Pedestrianisation has given the streets back to the people and has also helped trade. BhS noted that three months after pedestrianisation their turnover had increased by 30% and M&S’s increase was in excess of 20%. It was found that people in pedestrianised areas had more time to stop, look and spend.
  • The down side is a proliferation of open top buses. They now have no way of stopping and there is a constant stream of buses circulating the bar walls. If people could be persuaded to get off the bus they would cross the city more quickly and would actually participate in the environment rather than being voyeurs.
  • Stone Gate was the first street ever to be pedestrianised in the late 1960s and it created a furore. Luckily the re-paving was done in old York stone and the footprint of the street was left with a curb and the curtailage was retained. Other streets have been planted with trees and have helped with the introduction of a pavement culture of street cafes, buskers and bands which have a humanising effect and are a marvellous resource for visitors and residents.
  • People should be aware of the dangers inherent in the local planning authority being part landowners of historic sites.
  • Streets are closed to traffic from 11am to 4.30pm in some cases and 6pm in others.
  • Pedestrianisation was introduced on a softly softly basis. There was no dramatic change. There was huge opposition from traders at first but the scheme was introduced a street at a time and objectors were approached personally to ask what their concerns were. It was emphasised that the scheme was always experimental with the opportunity to step back.
  • There were objections to the delivery hours at first but the traders themselves developed a system that works for them and delivery vans have disappeared by 11am.
  • Balance has to be achieved between inner car parks and a very sophisticated P&R system with bus lanes and quick access to the town centre.

Chichester – Mr Brian Horsley , secretary, Chichester Society, on ‘The Impact of Pedestrian Priority on Local Businesses’.

  • Chichester’s centre is small, reaching half a mile in each direction from the cross in the centre, and its pedestrianisation scheme was completed in one go after the Local Authority had prepared for it by buying up the backs of the houses to make space for deliveries.
  • The perceived difficulties were that rear access to the shops was limited and that loading and unloading would cause problems. Disabled access was also limited. The solution initially was vehicular access between 4pm and 10am fed from an interchange depot.
  • The problem of loading and unloading did not materialise as companies were prepared to deliver early. The interchange depot would have proved unworkable, particularly in the case of refrigerated goods.
  • Deliveries have since become more difficult because of the increasing size of HGVs and delivery vehicles which are unable to turn in the rear delivery areas provided.
  • The Chamber of Commerce view is still that rear access is important and currently they feel this is threatened by the District Council wishing to build on some of these areas. The matter of limited access to the main streets between the hours of 4pm and 10am is still being debated.The influence of a large increase in retail rents and of out of town shopping centres has had a more detrimental effect on town centre trade than has pedestrianisation, which can be beneficial if an infrastructure of off-street parking and rear delivery areas is provided at the same time.
  • Deadness in the streets at night is less due to pedestrianisation than to the fact that chain stores are the main town centre retailers and they are not interested in using the spaces above their premises for anything but storage. There are too many problems associated with creating living accommodation because of security and difficulties of access. Living over the shop can, however, be a good thing if considered as one of many elements of revitalising town centres.
  • Delegates from Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds both responded to this by saying that they both had town centre dwellings and an increased number of single person dwellings and this had contributed to a lively tmosphere and a safe environment. It was also brought to delegates’ attention (by Chris Winter of the English Historic Towns Forum) that a survey was currently being done on Living Over the Shop.

Oxford - Mrs Moyra Haynes, chairman of the Oxford Consumers’ Group, on ‘Managing Traffic in the Historic Town Centre’.

  • The geography of Oxford, on the main route from London to the Midlands, plus its many rivers and the fact that the university owns a lot of land and historic buildings in and around the city centre makes the building of ring roads and parking difficult.
  • In the 1960s/early 70s, because the future was considered to be the motor car, the bus station was sold to developers and the inconveniently positioned railway station was downgraded. Campaigners for a green belt round Oxford won their case at a public enquiry in 1962 but the boundaries were only finalised in 1998.
  • Although a small city, Oxford is internationally known and a highly desirable place to live and to trade so the pressure on houses is tremendous. People have to commute from as far as Abingdon, Bicester and Witney.
  • Park & Ride was agreed in the 1970s and established quickly at points north, south and west with three free P&R areas and a subsidised bus service. The eastern one was a problem because of divided responsibility - the Ministry of Transport controlled the A40 and access from a P&R was not allowed onto a major trunk road. Consumer groups insisted that a fourth P&R was essential and eventually won their case.
  • Originally P&R was free with subsidised bus services. All the P&Rs have proved very popular and are now double their original size – two sites hold 700 and 1000 cars respectively. The buses are now self sufficient and a charge of 50p is made to park, which covers the costs of guards and CCTV.
  • P&R has to be part of a package of measures. Parking charges in the city centre must be kept at a high level - it costs £1.50 per hour or £15 per day to park in the centre of Oxford - so it pays to park & ride.
  • Problems arose in the mid 1980s because buses were deregulated and two bus companies now compete to send five buses an hour to London. They used a tiny bus station in the middle of the city and the rest hung around the streets. In addition about 27% of cars in the centre were through traffic, using the centre rather than the ring roads. So the Oxford Preservation Trust put money into an independent study in 1989 to see what could be done.
  • A seminar was held to which planners, county, (divided responsibility of highways between county and city makes for increased difficulties) and all interested groups got together to discuss the possibilities and as a result the County Council commissioned a full-scale feasibility study. A working party was set up which included voluntary groups and bus companies and monitored the progress of the £40,000 report which was published in 1991 in three stages and the public was involved at every stage.
  • The Department of Transport approved the pedestrianisation of the north section and then set out to convince the traders. Marks & Spencer and Debenhams were greatly in favour but some small traders were very resistant so a public enquiry was necessary. As in York the inspector found in favour of pedestrianisation but some traders remain very opposed, including those in the north east corner where there is a covered market, selling heavy goods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, but no access by car. There is also a fear that some shoppers avoid coming to Oxford because they are put off by the park & ride system and strict prevention of cars in the centre. However, the Central Retailers Association assess that about 50% of traders approve of the scheme. Those who are not in favour are not broadly against the transport strategy, but against parts of it that still need clearing up. The County and the City started preparing for the pedestrianisation about three years ago, firstly by improving the ring road and by dividing the city into quarters so that as much traffic as possible could be sent round the city instead of through the centre, but people could come into the city in the quarter where they wanted to be.
  • People are extremely pleased with the work done on the ring road, which also included building a flyover. Bus lanes were put in from the Park & Ride, some streets had bus priority, others were designated buses and cycles only. It is not permitted to go through the bus gates in a private car between 8.30am and 6.30pm. The Oxford Consumers’ Group fought very hard to get the limit of 6.30pm and not 7pm in order to park and get to theatres and cinemas in time.
  • Cyclists don’t seem to think that pedestrianised area applies to them. They are supposed to get off and walkown the pedestrianised areas, but they go both ways and they go fast. So special bright green cycle lanes have had to be introduced.
  • Buses now get through much more quickly because they are not impeded by lorries and cars blocking their paths as they have priority.
  • Tourist coaches create a problem by stopping too long at dropping off points in the centre. A proposal is being considered to make an old County Council car park available for coaches to wait so that visitors can be dropped and picked up at a later time. It is essential that they are picked up at the place they were dropped, otherwise they get lost. Only when visitors are taken around in conducted tours on foot can they be picked up from a different appointed venue.
  • Any lay over times to avoid buses being penalised for being late are at the periphery, never in the centre The system only works because the centre is clear and buses can move with a minimum of delay.

Appendix

Conclusions from Workshop Sessions

Group 1 discussion – facilitator Ian G. Heggie, Stratford Society

What lessons have we learned from our visitors?

  • Do nothing is not an option. Town centres will continue to change because of overall changes in the economy and the retail sector and Stratford has to move with the times. Traffic will also continue to grow and all examples suggest that the declining quality of the town centre damages business, discourages tourism and causes more people to move out of the town centre.
  • A gentle approach to managing traffic in historic town centres, which proceeds in an incremental way, is likely to work best. It is most successful when developed on a partnership basis where all interested parties work together.
  • There is no unique solution – models developed in other towns cannot simply be transplanted to Stratford. The solutions might draw lessons from other towns, but need to be designed to deal with the specifics of Stratford.
  • Business can adjust to restrictions on delivery hours and this can have a major impact on the quality of the town centre during the busiest time of day.
  • Tourism clearly stands to benefit from a more attractive walking environment (and historic towns should capitalise on this by marketing themselves as ‘walking towns’). A few businesses might be adversely affected, but business as a whole stands to benefit from a significant increase in turnover.

How can car use in the town centre be better managed?

  • We should not underestimate the potential benefits of travel awareness campaigns – trying to persuade people to travel in ways which are more environmentally sensitive. Better signing, particularly for visitors, could also reduce unnecessary journeys by drivers searching for parking spaces.
  • Park Ride can play an important part and will be most effective if it forms part of a comprehensive approach to managing town centre traffic. However, be forewarned, by itself it is likely to have a relatively small effect on the amount of traffic in the town centre.
  • P&R needs to be complemented by better management of town centre parking space.
  • Better co-ordination between rail and bus would be desirable, but appears difficult unless the cattle market site comes up for re-development.
  • A more pedestrian-friendly town means wider pavements, slower traffic in the town centre, plus more pedestrian priority.
  • Cycling is hazardous. Can we designate ‘safe’ cycling routes to facilitate more cycling, particularly on routes to and from schools?
  • Safe cycle storage would help and could be financed through user charges.

Group II Discussion: Facilitator Greame Fitton,

Warwickshire County Council

What lessons have we learned from our visitors?

  • Each town has unique problems and they require unique solutions. The size and nature of the road network acts as an important constraint on the type of solutions which might be adopted.
  • Stratford clearly has a problem with town centre traffic and something s needs to be done about it sooner rather than later. “Grasp the nettle and get on with it”.
  • More space needs to be allocated to pedestrians (at the expense of motor vehicles) and Bridge Street is a clear example where parking could be reduced to make way for wider pavements.
  • Pedestrianisation can be approached either on a wholesale (all at once) or piecemeal (incremental) basis. The incremental approach – try it out and learn – was likely to be more acceptable and more effective.
  • An important message emerging from the other historic towns is that pedestrianisation is generally good for trade. Shops like greengrocers would be adversely affected, but overall town centre business would benefit.

How can P&R be designed to offer a realistic alternative?

  • P&R sites have to be secure to prevent vandalism and theft.
  • Although P&R in Stratford can start with a northern site, a southern site must eventually be found to complement it.
  • There must be a cash incentive to use P&R – parking and bussing must be cheaper than parking in the town centre and short term parking charges need to be lower than long term ones. There might initially have to be some subsidy.
  • P&R will probably work regardless of other measures, but without an overall strategy it will not realise its full potential. Buses must be frequent, clean and capable of kneeling.
  • It might be worth considering a light rail link from Bishopton.

How can we reduce car use without adversely affecting business?

  • Existing public transport services need to be increased to serve more of Stratford. This might require some form of subsidy.
  • Provision for cycling needs to be increased with a strong emphasis on safety (ie safe cycling routes).
  • On-street parking needs to be reduced and what remains should be subject to parking charges and length of stay restrictions.
  • Short stay parking should be cheap and provision for long stay parking outside the town centre needs to be increased.
  • Residential parking needs to be protected from drivers displaced from existing town centre parking spaces.

Group III discussion – facilitator Margaret Barnes,

Calderdale Metrolpolitan Borough Council

What lessons have we learned from our visitors?

  • The success of traffic management in each of the three towns discussed was linked to the fact that they each have a proper by-pass. It is important to look at this option seriously again.
  • Park & Ride is best established on a ring road and it is essential that through traffic is diverted round the town before it can be well used and effective. It must be user friendly with good signage.
  • Park & Ride is necessary on both sides of the town – north and south – and should be implemented at the same time. Further P&R should be considered in future to serve the east and west routes.
  • Delivery hours can be tackled if the will is there. Traders in other towns have found their own ways to cope with the problems once they have seen the advantages and this has not resulted, as is often argued, in higher prices.
  • The hours of pedestrianisation must be carefully considered so that the town remains busy and safe at night. 7pm is too late to allow free movement of traffic and this should be 6pm or 6.30pm at the latest to allow pre-theatre restaurant parking. This was achieved against the wishes of the local authority in Oxford by the Civic Society giving evidence at the public enquiry.
  • Pedestrianisation with wider pavements can lead to a pleasant street culture which is beneficial to visitors and residents.
  • It may eventually be necessary to ban all vehicles, including buses and visitor coaches, from the town centre because of the pollution factor. More consideration should be given to the use of alternative fuels, such as electricity, for town centre vehicles. An experiment on electric buses was done in Oxford but a special route had to be invented for them and they had to be subsidised because they could not compete with the commercial bus operators.
  • School runs should be examined more rigorously, including safe cycle routes and ‘walking buses’ in which children join a safe, conducted walk as it passes the house. Suggestions (tried in Oxford) included refusing the give a school planning permission for a new building unless it institutes car sharing schemes among parents – this only works with independent schools as the others are run by the county. Although none of the local schools had been interested enough to attend today’s conference, it was felt that there was an opportunity to develop co-operation in this field as Stratford is small enough to manage an experimental project among schools and there was great education value in encouraging children to think about the environment in this way.

What are the larger issues to consider?

  • People do not trust traffic models. Circumstances are changing at such a rate that even if this is built into the conclusions, there is no proof until it is too late that the modal is accurate. Statistics are sometimes gathered at inappropriate times and therefore form an inaccurate basis for future predictions. Oxford ‘did not believe the traffic model’ and was not alone in this.
  • County Councils and District Councils do not have the same objectives over traffic control because the County always says that local improvement can only be achieved at the expense of the surrounding areas. Such divisions need to be brought out in the open and all interested parties should sit round a table and describe their conflicting interests. A shared vision was needed and a mechanism whereby all parties should get to know each other’s aims and work towards a common goal instead of working in an atmosphere of wariness and lack of trust.
  • The attitude of local authorities that they did not need to explain themselves was not helpful. It could be mutually beneficial if local authorities trusted their civic societies more to help them to set up the consultation processes (as has been done in Oxford). A non-political body could also help to co-ordinate the findings of the various consultation groups, thus relieving the workload of overstretched officers. At the moment suspicion is engendered because the outcome of local authority consultation process is not seen to have taken residents’ and other objections into consideration. This would be overcome by establishing a group to monitor all experimental schemes and this should include representatives of all local organisations, commercial and voluntary.
  • There needs to be a catalyst – an independent study for example – to produce some serious new thinking which will give the authorities something to debate and react to. But the possibility of serious money being raised for this would be wasted if consultation is not wide enough.
  • If everyone gets together before the decision making process there is less likelihood of misinformation being accidentally or deliberately disseminated.
  • It is always difficult to reconcile so many different viewpoints – local authorities, business, residents, tourism – but efforts and money will be wasted unless there a co-operative body is established which can join up the various strands of thought and is seen to be working without a single interest group agenda.

Seminar Sponsored by
Stratford-upon-Avon Society, Traffic Sub-Committee
Shakespeare Institute, Henley Street

10th October 2000

Top