Socially-distanced seating areas planned for pedestrianised Shrewsbury town centre
Socially-distanced seating zones could be introduced in Shrewsbury to help cafes, bars and restaurants in the town centre under coronavirus restrictions.
Part of Shrewsbury town centre is set to be traffic-free during part of the day under plans to make the town safe for people during the pandemic.
Shops are due to start reopening from June 15 and preparations are being put in place to enable people to maintain social distancing while visiting the town centre.
The main proposal involves creating a central pedestrian zone for a period of the day similar to the one that was in place during gas works last summer.
Under the plans inbound traffic from English Bridge would be diverted along Town Walls rather than up Wyle Cop and onto High Street between 11am and 6pm.
Traffic coming from the train station side of the town will still be able to come up Castle Street, along St Mary’s Street and down Wyle Cop, but will not be able to turn onto High Street at the top of the Cop.
That will mean High Street and Shoplatch will be completely free of vehicles, enabling the road to be used by pedestrians and for seating areas to be installed in loading bays, similar to the pocket park installed last year.
The plans are part of a range of urgent initiatives being proposed by the Shrewsbury Recovery Taskforce, made up of representatives from Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury BID.
Councillor Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, said: “The key message from Public Health England is that town centres need to allow as much space as possible for people to observe social distancing rules to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“The most effective way of doing that is to reduce traffic from the centre of Shrewsbury so people are not restricted to only using pavements.
“By allowing roads to be used by pedestrians, it gives more space for safe queuing zones outside shops, which is a key public health requirement.”
All changes to road layouts and traffic movement will be carried out under formal ‘experimental traffic orders’, which means consultation will be carried out while the schemes are in place. They will all be operated on a trial basis, with the option to quickly remove them if necessary.
Leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, Councillor Alan Mosley, said: “One of Shrewsbury’s charms is its narrow streets and medieval road layout, but that presents obvious challenges when trying to create more space for people to enjoy the town centre in a safe way.
“Reducing through traffic and making the town centre more easily accessible on foot and cycle is one of the main priorities identified in the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan, and these temporary road closures are an ideal way of putting those plans into action.
“However, we are all very aware that businesses need access for deliveries and I know colleagues within the recovery taskforce are speaking with businesses about how best to manage deliveries, and those conversations are ongoing within what is an excellent example of partnership working in the best interests of all those who live, work and visit our town.”
Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, said people could suggest ideas to make the town centre safe on the Big Town Plan website at shrewsburybigtownplan.org
He said: “Above all we want to make sure that local people and visitors feel welcome and safe coming to the town centre over the summer months.
“Creating a pedestrian zone on key streets will allow more creative use of the space, such as safely-distanced seating zones which could be used by cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s important to note that access to all town centre car parks will be maintained through this plan.
“There are a range of other benefits of reducing through traffic, and we want to make the environment more welcoming so people are inclined to spend more time in the town centre whilst still maintaining social distancing.
“We are discussing ways we can help businesses manage deliveries and will be announcing our further plans for promoting the town to visitors during these challenging times shortly.”