At todays meeting of the Active Travel Cell consisting of representatives from Somerset, Sedgemoor and Bridgwater Councils, Town Councillors presented their survey of traders which showed that although there was some support for the traffic free High Street, there was nevertheless a majority of traders in favour of returning to the previous system and accordingly that was proposed to County officers. Surveys had been undertaken in Eastover, where the new single direction scheme was widely supported and in Westover where the result was closer but generally against High Street pedestrianisation. The group also noted a support however for Friday closures in order to support the market . Councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce carried out the Westover survey whilst Councillors Glen Burrows and Dave Loveridge undertook the Eastover one.
Westover Councillors Report (B.Smedley & K Pearce)
On Thursday 9th July we visited all the traders that were open between top of High street, round Cornhill to end of Pedestrian zone in St Mary street. We used the Eastover survey questions as the model asking whether people understood and were supportive of the changes (ie closing High street to traffic) or opposed to them (ie reverting to the previous arrangement of one way traffic). We also asked for other comments.
The results were very evenly split with neighbouring shops often having differing views. However, the final verdict was 13 in favour of the pedestrianization and 19 in favour of returning to the old system with 1 indifferent.
Some of the reasons for opposing the pedestrianization included loss of trade, reduction of footfall, lack of busses dropping shoppers in high street, difficulties with deliveries, the belief that it was killing trade, lack of parking, difficulties for the elderly, the ‘dead’ appearance, plus the belief that the pavements are wide enough already and no one uses the road
The reasons for preferring the pedestrianized version included it’s safer, no more ‘boy racers’, it’s a nicer atmosphere, it hasn’t affected trade at all and the suggestion it could be taken even further with adding seats, trees and benches.
The Friday Market
There was further comment from the 4 traders at Cornhill Market who generally felt that the moving of the Friday Market to High street was not a good idea however, the main concern was not the location or the continuation of the market but of the allowance of stalls from out of area that sold similar items to existing shops and stalls. The general feeling was that it was better in Fore street but that it shouldn’t include goods that were in competition to existing traders. There was also a suggestion that High street could just close for the Friday market
Eastover Councillors Report (G. Burrows & D Loveridge)
On Friday 26 th and Monday 29 th June, we visited a total of 17 traders – in other words, all those which were open. Our intention was to seek feedback on the temporary traffic arrangements and their effect on Eastover and its traders and shoppers.
Everyone understood why and how the temporary restrictions had been introduced. We were surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to the new arrangements. Only one-trader thought it was a bad idea. The rest agreed that it was good to give space to pedestrians.
Main shared problem seems to be with deliveries, One trader said that 15 minutes has been added to all delivery routes because vehicles have to go a long way around to access Eastover. Another trader pointed out that there are no signs from the Broadway and that he received no delivery the previous week, because the lorry couldn’t get through to the site. Some shops have very large delivery vans and, when these are parked in the unloading bay, traffic is stuck behind, and buses can’t get through.
This is exacerbated by the permanent location of a trailer outside “36 Eastover” which might have been an attractive initiative before the one-way system was introduced, but is now causing an additional problem.
Everyone spoke angrily about the large number of violations of the new rules: cars going the wrong way, delivery trucks parking in the wrong section, as well as some members pf the public refusing to queue safely.
Parking was the major concern expressed, both now and in the future. Eastover contains a large number of take-aways, and these, in turn, attract large numbers of drivers for custom and deliveries. Adequate free parking nearby would encourage shoppers, although concern was expressed for the needs of disabled shoppers.
The idea of pedestrianisation was welcomed by 12 out of the 17 traders. Those who were opposed felt it would hinder trade and deliveries, although most agreed that something must be done about pollution and congestion. 6 traders had not heard of the Town Team, and we’d be pleased to assist in getting information to them
The topic raised most was the need for Eastover and St John Street to be incorporated into the Town Centre. Some felt that pedestrianisation would help to achieve this. There is a good range of shops in this part of town and they feel neglected and ignored. There is certainly an air of neglect and degradation and very little in the way of trees, flowers and seating. The problems of rubbish disposal have been regularly reported, as have the large amount of drinking and anti-social behavior which disrupt both traders and residents. On this matter, we are proposing to the Town Team that we organize a joint meeting, involving traders, residents, councillors and council officers to develop ideas for “Cleaning Up Eastover”.
The complete town centre results breakdown as follows
Eastover scheme – Supported by Traders 12-5
Westover scheme -Opposed by Traders 19-13
Town Centre overall view Supported by Traders 25-24
This suggests that the Eastover scheme should be continued as there is majority support but the Westover scheme along High Street should be reversed although there is a general support across the town centre for future considerations for pedestrianized areas.
Town Clerk David Mears confirmed “Following a virtual meeting today with Bridgwater Town Council, Sedgemoor District Council & Somerset County Council officers and councillors, it was agreed that the road closure in High Street will be removed from this evening (17/7/2020). Therefore, the High Street will open from tonight. It was also agreed to reintroduce the closure on a Friday to allow the Weekly market to continue in it’s current format along the High Street every Friday. York Buildings will remain closed, to allow for safe queuing for NatWest Bank. The temporary taxi signs opposite the Duke and on Mary Street will also be removed so normal parking / loading arrangements will then apply here. This will be reviewed over coming weeks. These changes are a result of a survey of Cornhill and High Street businesses.”