Business leaders 'disappointed' as Shrewsbury pedestrianisation trial axed

Business bosses have expressed their "disappointment" after a controversial pedestrianisation trial was cut short.

Shoplatch in Shrewsbury has been pedestrianised during lockdown
Shoplatch in Shrewsbury has been pedestrianised during lockdown

The experimental traffic order in Shrewsbury town centre was lifted on Wednesday after complaints from hospitality traders frustrated at being able to make the most of outdoor dining, as well as beleaguered disabled people and delivery drivers who faced access to parking issues.

The trial was due to run until October 31, but Shropshire Council chose to stop the experiment, with the town reverting to how things were before the pandemic and social distancing measures for pedestrians were brought in.

Now Shrewsbury Bid, a collective of leaders in the business community, is calling on the council to re-introduce a weekend closure trial as well as other measures.

A statement said: "Following business feedback we have written to Shropshire Council to express our disappointment that the trial is to be ended in its entirety two months earlier than planned.

"We are calling on Shropshire Council to re-introduce a weekend closure trial addressing concerns with disabled access, re-introduce daily closures on Milk Street and The Square to allow hospitality businesses to have additional space available for customers, and work with local partners in the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership to address concerns raised during the trial and develop a holistic strategy to reduce through traffic."

Traffic in Shrewsbury High Street after the pedestrianisation order was lifted

It added: "Throughout the trial we have been collecting data and listening to feedback from businesses. We have had over 90 responses to our business survey from a wide variety of businesses in the town centre.

"Over 80 per cent of businesses have stated they would like some form of pedestrianisation to be in place - with most businesses favouring complete closure rather than allowing some vehicles through as has happened on weekdays.

"Less than 20 per cent of businesses that have responded to the survey stated they want traffic arrangements to return to how things were pre-Covid with all roads re-opening to traffic in the town centre.

"Some businesses have told us they have been having problems with deliveries and loading during the restricted hours. There have also been concerns raised about how the trial has impacted people with mobility issues. We would have liked Shropshire Council to work with businesses and interest groups to address some of these concerns during the trial.

"We all know that compliance of the weekday traffic order in the first two weeks of the trial was poor. However with better signage and a gateman in place, the number of vehicles using high street has reduced from 170 vehicles an hour (at the start of the trial) to 50 vehicles an hour during recent weeks - a reduction of 70 per cent.

"Feedback from our members suggest that full pedestrianisation on weekends has generally worked well and has become a feature of the weekend experience in Shrewsbury. The atmosphere and vibrancy of the town on weekends has been particularly good, cafés have been able to use additional outdoor space and we are attracting lots of outside visitors to the town.

"Footfall counted by Springboard on Shrewsbury High Street during the past week was one per cent up compared to the same week in 2019 - this compares to a national figure for town centres of minus 20 per cent for the past week."

Town centre businesses who have not responded to the survey can have their say at bit.ly/3jv7R8B

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