A controversial pedestrianisation scheme at the heart of Shrewsbury which was discontinued this summer could begin again, with some changes, in October, if approved by Shropshire Council's cabinet.
The previous trial scheme ended on 1 September 2021 to allow all views to be reviewed and considered, after initial feedback – both for and against the scheme.
Following discussions between Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury BID, a second trial for the part-pedestrianisation of the town centre will be presented to full cabinet next month, with a view to implementing the road closures from October 25 through to the end of January 2022.
Under the plans, Milk Street will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays to all traffic from 11am – 5pm, and The Square will be closed to all traffic every day from 11am to 5pm. Wyle Cop (uphill), High Street and Shoplatch will be closed to all traffic on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm.
This is an extension of the scheme by one more hour at weekends, but it allows for the return of traffic during the week (aside from The Square, which will effectively become a pedestrian precinct during the new trial).
There are arguments on all sides - earlier this month, business leaders wrote to Shropshire Council to express their disappointment that the trial had ended early, with over 80% of town centre businesses surveyed coming out in favour of some form of pedestrianisation remaining in place. However, street closures also cause issues for delivery drivers and loading, and access problems for disabled people. During the new trial, the council assures that additional parking provision for people with disabilities will be provided.
Picture credit: The Square, Shrewsbury by Birgitta Zoutman
The new closures – and related traffic information – will be advertised using the new Variable Message Signs that are now in place in and around the town to provide information to our residents, visitors and businesses.
It is anticipated that other trials may also take place in the near future, including an ‘Access Only’/ Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme for Town Walls.
Ahead of the weekend closures, Shropshire Council’s transport services and Shrewsbury BID will be working with town centre traders and representatives from disability groups, public transport organisations and residents groups to address concerns raised about the earlier trial, but also to ensure the many positive comments regarding the improved environment for the town centre, air quality and enhancing the uniqueness of Shrewsbury are included in the trial, whilst the final plan is agreed.
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for highways, said: "We paused the previous trial at the end of August to allow us to consider all feedback, to review the measures with Shrewsbury BID, and decide if any changes need to be added to the measures that were in place.
“Now that we’ve had the opportunity to do that I’m pleased that we can now put in place a new trial (subject to Cabinet approval), which takes into account and addresses the positive and negative comments received previously.
“Our aim is to create the best possible environment for the town centre and its businesses to prosper, and to make it more cyclist-friendly and pedestrian-friendly.
“That is what we want to achieve, and I’m confident this second trial will enable us to do so. As this is a trial, once the measures are in place we welcome any comments that people may have, and will inform how we move forward and support the aspirations of the Big Town Plan more fully.”
Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, added: "The past 18 months have demonstrated considerable benefits of a traffic-free environment, with over 80% of businesses saying they would like to see some form of a pedestrian-friendly scheme in place permanently.
“The atmosphere in the town centre has been fantastic, particularly on weekends, with visitors, diners and shoppers able to enjoy the extra space available, so this is very welcome news.
“We are in regular dialogue with Shropshire Council and will continue to engage with businesses, disability groups and partners on this new scheme; and welcome news of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood on Town Walls being trialled in the near future.”