Removal of on-street Ironbridge parking in 'radical' trial to assist with social distancing
A 'radical' shake-up of parking at a Shropshire tourist hotspot is being trialled to try and facilitate social distancing as visitor numbers increase.
On-street parking in parts of Ironbridge has been removed to allow extra space for walkers and cyclists, while a new pedestrian walkway has been established by a wall that was damaged by flooding in February.
Initial measures are being trialled from Friday, but from June the changes will continue, with a daytime closure of the Wharfage, Tontine Hill and High Street, and a one-way system potentially introduced.
Councillor Carolyn Healy, who represents the Ironbridge Gorge on Telford & Wrekin Council, said she would have preferred to leave more time for detailed consultation but the coronavirus lockdown situation has forced the issue.
She said: "At this evening's parish council meeting I outlined the borough council proposals to facilitate social distancing in the centre of Ironbridge where we are seeing increasing numbers of visitors.
"As pavements are narrow there is a need to reduce traffic in order to allow more pedestrian and cycle space. The proposals are radical and will be implemented quickly due to the public health risk of the current situation.
"Ideally I would like to have detailed consultation but we need to move fast. The changes will be carried out under an experimental traffic order which means this will be a trial, during which your feedback can help modify the scheme and inform future decisions about making permanent changes."
The changes being introduced from today include removing on-street parking from the Wharfage, Tontine Hill and High Street to create extra space for walking and cycling; closing the Square car park to allow for more pedestrian space and queuing once shops are allowed to open; creating a pedestrian walkway past the flood-damaged wall at Tontine Hill (the wall repair will begin on June 15); and installing signs to tell motorcyclists not to park on the pavement by the Iron Bridge.
Enforcement staff will be on duty this weekend to explain the changes.
Then from the beginning of June, the Wharfage, Tontine Hill and the High Street will be shut in the daytime, with access retained for residents and businesses; the Station Yard car park will be renamed Ironbridge Central; and traffic calming measures will be installed in the centre of the town.
The council is also considering making the stretch of road including the three streets one-way.
Councillor Healy said: "There are still details to finalise such as the location of disabled parking, bus routes and resident parking for those displaced by these measures.
"To reiterate, this will be done as a trial but with a view to creating a long-term improvement to the current traffic issues through the centre of Ironbridge. Throughout the trial I want to hear about the impact on residents and businesses so that we can modify as we go.
"We will also need to balance issues against the public health risks associated with Covid-19."
Contact Councillor Healy by email, on email@example.com.
The proposals sparked a lively debate on social media, with many praising the changes but with some concerns about how it would affect businesses.
James Gittins said: "Great idea! Should be pedestrianised anyway."
Grant Foden said: "Very impressed with the speed you've got these plans going. After walking through Ironbridge last Saturday it was clear there was no way social distancing was happening. Keep up the good work."
But Andy Joseph said: "You seriously want to destroy the Gorge economic base for Covid?" He said the changes would mean fewer people coming to the Gorge and businesses closing.
The Riverside Tearoom of Ironbridge posted to say: "Great for locals, not so for people visiting shops or passing trade which is where many get business from, been a very tough year for business this may just finish some off."
Cheryl Underwood said: "I think the consideration of changes to traffic in Ironbridge is a good idea in the current situation, however you need to consider the effect of the proposed parking restrictions on other roads Ironbridge, if there is no parking on the Wharfage the problem will be moved elsewhere.
"When Ironbridge is busy with visitors it becomes very difficult to get through the gaps between parked cars especially with coaches, buses and lorries also using this route, perhaps on-road parking in Ironbridge should now only be for residents with permits to keep the roads clear."